Assessing the economic impact of poor fertility could be one way of minimising variable costs and ultimately maximising gross margins, Phil Alcock of Bishopton Vet Group told Beef Expo seminar delegates.

The difference between a first service pregnancy result of 75% and one of 40% can result in a loss of £50 a cow (see table), he told farmers.

“A failed first service will affect calving period, average weaning age and weight and ultimately the number of barren cows in a herd.

“Check records for calves born for every 100 cows, as well as those born in the first three weeks of calving, which should ideally be over 60% and those born in the first nine weeks of calving which should be 90%. Anything born after that period will be unprofitable.”

And its not just about the females. Bulls with the right breeding values for gestation length and birth weight also need a full breeding examination at least six weeks before serving.

“Your vet should assess scrotal circumference, failing anything less than 34cm, locomotion and body condition score – it’s no good buying a pedigree bull from a sale with a BCS of five and turning him out to work straightaway. He needs to be in the region of 3.5 for successful mating.”

Finally, Mr Alcock advocated fertility testing bulls using electro-ejaculation sampling. “This is a stress-free, quick and easy way of managing bull power in terms of sperm strength and motility.”

Monitoring calving rates and calving interval provides a good guide to cow fertility, but bulls should receive attention too.