Fertility and conception rates

There has been many reports of the decline in fertility and conception rates of less that 50% are commonplace. The finger of blame is often pointed at the Holstein breed, high milk yields and many other factors. There are plenty of Holstein herds achieving high yields who still have good fertility as can be seen by Leighton Farm's figures.

As stated many farmers know the current conception rate but how many know the submission rate? (The percentage of cows served in a 3 week period who are eligible for service).

Improving conception rate is important but it is difficult and has less effect on cows pregnant than improving submission rate via heat detection.

  Average fertility 
50% Conception Rate.
50% Heat Detection.
Improved Conception Rate To 60%. 
Heat Detection 50%
Improved Conception Rate To 60%. 
Conception Rate 50%. 
Heat Detection Improvement To 75%.
Days to 1st service 100 100 79
% Cows pregnant at 100 days 50 60 (2 cycles)
% Cows pregnant  at 121 days 63 72 83
% Cows pregnant at 100 days 71 80 94

How do you improve heat detection? The cow must be cycling to observe heat and there are many factors, which affect this. But a lot of heats are not seen. How many cows presented to the vet as "not seen bulling" are cycling normally?

Watching for heats is boring and not sexy for the watcher but it is the best way to improve heat detection. Three times a day for 20 minutes a time done by someone who knows the signs of heat and has records available. Don't assume all staff know the signs of heat.

Records of heat and conception rates are vital if fertility performance is to be improved. Shown overleaf is a decision making chart on fertility showing some of the problem areas, which can highlight where improvements can be made. For example Body Condition Score. If cows Body condition is poor then score is 1. If it is average then score 5 and score 9 if cows are in good body condition.

Fertility chart

Join up all the dots and you will be able to identify weaknesses (low scores). The next stage is to produce an action plan to improve this, GP Feeds can help work with you and your vet to improve fertility performance.