27 July 2001

Keeping accurate records provides possible solution

FAILURE to spot cows in heat is still one of the greatest barriers to improving fertility – and could become worse as the number of skilled staff on dairy farms declines.

David Barrett, cattle health and production specialist at Glasgow Vet School, who led a fertility workshop at the BCVA meeting, said: "It is often tempting to believe poor fertility is a problem with a quick fix, such as trace element deficiency or disease. But poor fertility is often a management problem, such as poor heat detection."

Having data in a readily accessible form can help producers and vets get to the bottom of a fertility problem more quickly, said Mr Barrett. "Most producers have data, but few use it."

Information such as cow identification, calving dates, service dates, milk fat and protein can be vital in spotting causes of infertility. "There may be a problem on a particular day of the week when different staff manage the herd or sudden changes in milk fat and protein may indicate a ration problem."

Recording additional information, such as when cows are spotted in heat, could also help. "If you make a note of when cows will next come into oestrus, you will know which cows to look out for on certain days.

"Watch cows for signs of oestrus for 20-30 minutes three times a day. It is no good trying to do this when bringing cows to and from the parlour." &#42