It seems a bit relentless, but as soon as calving comes to an end, we're already thinking of next season and getting them back in calf. The main tasks can be divided into the following:
1) Heifer mating - Whether you plan to AI or turn the bulls in, now is the perfect time to weigh your maiden heifers to see if they're going to meet target weights to bull. While we have them in the handling yard we like to make the most of the time, so we've been vaccinating, trimming tails, worming and giving them a mineral bolus. Their final weigh-in will be next week. This year anything below 10% of target will be ran with the bulls from Day 1, with the rest getting a fixed time AI. I'm hoping that at least 100/140 will be heavy enough.
2) Pre-mating heats - The past three seasons we have tail painted the heard 42 days before PSM and recorded pre-mating heats. These have helped us get a picture of cows activity which we can consult throughout mating, in case we've missed heats or to spot cystic cows which tend to have very short, frequent cycles.
3) Metricheck and treat - The whole herd has been metrichecked, with cows showing endometritis or "whites", marked and treat accordingly. This is now a weekly practise, with this "dirty" group checked once a week and any non cyclers rechecked during milking. This may seem like overkill, but the key is that I check and treat the cows myself instead of the cost and hassle of calling the vet out.
Metricheck devices are available in the UK, and are an invaluable tool for quick diagnosis in block calving herds.
Treatment then falls into three categories, in order of severity from OK to worst, they are:
1) Washout with a dilute iodine solution, we use pevidine scrub.
2) Metricure antibiotic, no milk withhold.
3) 4 days course of antibiotics, milk withheld, we use Pen & Strep.
April is always a busy month, but the sooner we can set our breeding animals up for mating, the greater our chances of success. Relatively cheap solutions now, can have a huge impact on your eventual performance, as we strive for the virtuous circle of fertility.
In Part 2 I'll discuss the hot topic of intervention, CIDRs, estrumate and the rest!