8 December 1995

Warning:More cows returning to service

By Jonathan Riley

NUMBERS of suckler cows returning to service are up by 10 to 15% this year and dairy cows are expected to show a similar trend.

ADASs Elwyn Rees advises producers to be extra vigilant and keep records of all served cows, ensuring three weeks on that they are not returning to service.

Lack of grass and supplementation, combined with an over-reliance on straw, meant some cows were not in the required rising condition score at mating.

He suggests offering adequate levels of feed for maintenance plus milk production at 10 litres a day. And sustaining feed levels for six weeks after mating to avoid nutritional stress, which could prevent eggs implanting or lead to embryo losses. "A great deal of straw has been fed but it is low in protein and provides only 80% of energy required for maintenance.

"Sucklers going to the bull are lactating, so, in addition to ad lib straw, offer 5.5kg of concentrate a day, split into two feeds to avoid digestive upsets,"says Dr Rees.

"Silages below 11MJ of ME/kg dry matter should be supplemented with 1.8kg a head a day of a 14% crude protein concentrate."

"Before mating check the bull is in working condition, about condition score 3.5, and feed 2.2kg a day of a high energy concentrate.

"Semen should be tested. And when using bulls under two years old, and/or inexperienced bulls, limit the number of cows to 20.

"Feet must be trimmed and when hiring bulls check for recent diseases, particularly venereal diseases," he says.

Dairy cow position

Tony Andrews, Royal Veterinary College, says dairy cow fertility problems could be at least as high as in sucklers because of an increase in reproductive disorders and digestive upsets.

"Metritis has doubled in the past month (see p48). This could be due to poor calving technique linked to poor feeding, in particular a lack of minerals and vitamins during the dry period.

"Some cows have condition scores as low as 1.5 and unless they are in rising condition fertility will be reduced.

"Cases of retained placentae and digestive disorders have also risen," says Dr Andrews.