3 March 2000

High conception cuts costs

By Jessica Buss

HIGH conception rates achieved through managing fertility and improving feeding are responsible for falling vet costs and a low replacement rate on one Cheshire farm.

Philip Latham, Brook House, near Whitchurch, says low cow conception rates had caused concern for some years. But a visit from a Dutch vet helped him recognise feeding as the main problem and conception rates quickly improved from 40% to 60%.

Conception rates have stayed at that level for three years, while vet drug treatments, vet visits, semen costs and replacement rates have fallen and yields increased.

He calculates that fewer vet drug treatments alone are saving £10,000 a year across his familys two herds totalling 750 cows.

"Fertility drugs were costing up to £15.64 a cow. The vet was checking all cows at three weeks after calving, and using prosta-glandin on all cows whose uteruses were not shrinking normally. Treated cows were rechecked two weeks later and some injected with prostaglandin again.

"In addition, all cows not seen bulling were examined 50 days after calving, and were usually given prostaglandin, a PRID or CIDR and we were using Receptal. This is what happened when I asked the vet for a solution to poor fertility." But now fertility drug costs are down to £2.82 a cow he recognises it is better to pay his current vet, who now usually visits monthly, for advice and management solutions rather than medicines.

He was also treating cows for lameness and mastitis, and believes these problems were also linked to poor rationing. "In the past we treated mastitis, lameness and fertility as separate problems. But now we see them as one problem, and the solution is working out how to feed cows and manage them better – making them healthier."

Healthier cows are reflected in low replacement rates on both farms, at 18% and 15%. Mr Latham now rears 100 fewer heifers a year than four years ago.

He adds that Kingshay Farming Trust predicts that the national average replacement rate is 30% and that each 5% is costing an average producer 0.5p/litre. On that basis Mr Latham calculates that he is gaining almost 1.5p/litre, enough to justify feeding cows well, even if they need more concentrate.

Healthier cows are reflected in better fertility and lower cow replacement rates, giving a gain of almost 1.5p/litre, says Philip Latham.

IMPROVING FERTILITY

&#8226 Check for abnormality.

&#8226 Seek ration solutions.

&#8226 Reduce drug use.