Improve suckler fertility to boost margins by £3,500 a year

The average Scottish suckler herd producer could rear an extra seven calves a year, worth an additional £3,850, by taking steps to improve the fertility of their herd, according to a new guide produced by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

The guide, which was compiled by consultants from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and launched last week, is designed to help producers assess their herd’s performance and identify areas for improvement.

A QMS producer survey revealed that for every 100 cows put to the bull, only 87 calves were weaned. This compares to a target figure of 94, which means the average Scottish farmer is missing out on seven calves.

By meeting the 94% rearing target the average 100-cow herd rearing 87% of calves with a moderate calving spread could gain an extra £35/cow or £3,500 a year, experts say.

Benefits of a tight calving period and improved fertility: 

  • Rearing an extra seven calves and tightening the calving period could improve income by £86/cow or £8,600 a year.
  • Farmers in the bottom third produce just 83 calves per 100 cows or heifers, with top-third producers achieving 90 calves from every 100 females bulled. Hence a farmer who manages to improve his performance to meet the target 94% calving would produce an extra 11 calves worth about £6,050/year. 

“Making management changes to improve herd fertility gives a real opportunity to improve beef enterprise margin without the need to make any major structural changes to a business,” says Kathy Peebles, QMS livestock development manager.

“Quality Meat Scotland’s Cattle and Sheep Enterprise costing figures consistently show the top third of suckler beef producers perform more strongly than others mainly because they have extra calves to sell.”

As a minimum, an average store producer could see extra calf value returns of between £2,200 and £6,000 a year.

Mrs Peebles said finishers would also benefit from a tighter calving pattern as more even batches of calves would make feeding regimes easier and there would be less chance of bullying in the groups.

Improved fertility would also improve the uniformity of cattle, allowing farmers to sell additional batches of calves at slightly higher weights, which makes them more attractive to the buyers, she added.

Now is the perfect opportunity for spring-calving herds to assess herd performance and to identify where improvements can be made.

A Guide to Improving Suckler Herd Fertility is available on request from Quality Meat Scotland by emailing and can also be downloaded.

See more