Ensuring cows calve when they should is the focus of the fertility program at the Western District farm of Bruce and Andrea Vallance.
The Vallances concentrate on achieving good fertility in their 800-cow herd at their Nullawarre farm, split-calving the herd to ensure they can utilise available feed and give them enough heifer replacements to sustain herd numbers.
About seven years ago they were experiencing a 20 per cent empty rate and went looking for answers; what they ultimately learned has seen them reduce that figure to about five per cent.
“The fertility issues we had seven years ago that we had to address we could have bred-out with the Friesian breed, but crossbreeding gave us a quick answer to that question,” Mr Vallance said.
“A big part of that was using the fixed AI program. After the first seven weeks we have about 80 per cent pregnant.
“Seven years ago that figure was around the 60 per cent mark.”
The farm’s 60:40 split-calving system has paid dividends.
“This makes whole farm planning much easier throughout the year in terms of managing their labour requirements and resources,” Mr Vallance said.
“It works for us because it means the cows are calving when we want them to calve to utilise the feed, and we get the heifer replacements we need to be a sustainable herd.
“It just makes life easier.”
They have achieved good fertility in the herd over the past seven years through an intense crossbreeding program, using fixed-time AI, lead feeding and by placing an emphasis on industry training programs for staff education.
Mr Vallance credits a shift to a crossbreeding model and their AI program as the main drivers behind their success.
A focus on staff education has ensured that all employees receive training and are across the goals of the herd.
“Isaac, who manages here, we send him to just about all training courses — the cow fertility courses, lameness, all those sorts of ones and he brings that information back to the farm and trains up everyone and make sure those systems are in place on the farm,” Mr Vallance said.
“We have got a younger herd because of fertility because we bring in so many heifers which has kicked a lot of cows out.
“We’ve replaced the herd quite quickly, and you can’t do that without fertility, so now we’re at the stage it can give us some options in the farm business to use some beef bulls to value add to the whole business and diversify a little bit.”
For more information or to hear more about the Vallances’ experience improving herd fertility, visit:dairyaustralia.com.au/farm/animal-management/fertility