18 August 1995

Good scoring can help prevent losses

ACCURATE condition scoring is vital to guard against poor fertility in suckler cows which can cost over £200 a barren cow in lost calf revenues.

The advice comes from Lincolnshire-based Signet adviser Richard Elliot.

"Many producers do not use condition scoring effectively," he says.

To avoid losses through poor fertility, he recommends that May calvers score 2.5 at calving, 2.5 at mating, and 2 at turnout.

"Assessing cow condition from a distance will help but dairy crosses carry more fat than it appears whereas a double-bred continental can look better than she is," says Mr Elliot. So to condition score correctly he advises the cow is handled.

"The bulls condition must also be good because he will be working rather than eating," he says. About 68% of cows should have conceived at the first cycle, if not the bulls semen should be checked.

"Avoid stressing the cow when handling, or nutritionally, during the four to six weeks after mating because the embryo does not implant for 14 days and remains vulnerable up to six weeks."

Dr Peter Amer, animal breeding specialist at the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, agrees that nutrition both before and after calving plays an important role in suckler cow fertility.

"Hormone changes before first oestrus, conception and maintenance of pregnancy all depend on avoiding nutritional stress," says Dr Amer.

"Cows will delay pregnancy automatically in the absence of good reserves of condition or failure to offer sufficient feed after calving to maintain condition.

"Because of the dry summer, autumn calving herds will need to be maintained on higher than normal feeding levels after calving so that delayed oestrus with reduced conception rates does not result.

"Higher feeding levels should be maintained for as long as possible because of the early embryos vulnerability at this stage," he says.

"Extra feeding of lactating cows in poor condition at calving can be expensive. It is better to act prior to calving, using supplements to help ensure that appropriate condition is achieved."

He says preferential feeding of individual cows in poorer condition can help reduce costs. &#42