Early identification and culling of barren cows will enable
English suckler herds to make the most of limited forage
stocks and reduce their need for expensive supplementary
feeds this winter, advises the English Beef and Lamb Executive
Latest EBLEX calculations show barren cows each cost around £200
to keep and feed over a six month housing period. For a
typical 70 cow spring-calving suckler herd with a barren
rate of 8% this means winter savings of £1000 or
more through early culling of empty cows alone.
While animals repeatedly returning to the bull should be
earmarked for early culling, routine pregnancy diagnosis
of cows as they are brought in for the winter is the best
way of fully realising these savings. It ensures all empty
cows are accurately identified without the need for additional
handling before they can eat into valuable feed stocks.
Both main forms of pregnancy diagnosis – rectal palpation
and ultrasound – require a veterinarian or trained
technician, and can be combined with routine health treatment
and Body Condition Scoring at housing for the greatest
Quick and relatively less expensive, rectal palpation gives
accurate results when conducted 45-60 days or more after
insemination. Although more costly in time and equipment,
ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis can be used as early as
25 days after insemination, making it particularly valuable
for the early identification of autumn-calving cows failing
to hold to service.
With feed costs as they are this winter, additional finishing
of cull cows is unlikely to be worthwhile in most cases – and
certainly not for any stock at Body Condition Score of
2.5 or more which should be sold without delay.
As well as identifying cull cows that may profit from additional
feeding ahead of marketing, routine Body Condition Scoring
of all stock as they are brought in offers valuable opportunities
for further winter cost savings through more effective
grouping of the herd for feeding.
Dividing cows into fat (BCS 3.0 or more), fit (BCS 2.0-3.0)
and lean (BCS 2.0 or less) groups for the winter will allow
feeding to be fine-tuned to more accurately achieve the
target body condition at calving or turn-out for the best
performance as well as greatest feed economy.
Further information and guidance on suckler herd culling
and Body Condition Score targets is available free of charge
to English levy payers in Beef Action for Profit Fact Sheets
6 and 10 – Better Returns from Suckler Cull Cows
and Better Returns from Higher Herd Fertility – respectively.
These can be obtained by calling EBLEX on 0870 2418829,
e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or using the Beef Action for
Profit website resource at www.eblex.org.uk.
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Rapid Finishing of Cattle Still Provides Best Returns