The breeding season has commenced once again on many farms in the last couple of weeks, writes Francis Curran, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare.
How is it progressing? Is your stock bull working or is your heat detection up to scratch? Do you know how long you will breed for? - All key questions to ask yourself at this point.
Synchronisation can pay dividends to the partâtime farmer who wants to use AI, mainly by facilitating AI to genetically superior bulls, streamlining heat detection or at least focussing it on a key period, shortening the calving spread and hopefully creating an even bunch of calves which can be deâbudded, vaccinated, weaned and sold as a group.
For anyone considering synchronising heats for the first time, there are a few essential elements to ensure it is successful:
- Synchronisation should only be used in herds where there are high levels of management and, in particular, heat detection, good stockmanship along with some heat detection aids such as tail paint or scratch cards are required to pick up heat activity during this period;
- All vaccinations/boosters/minerals that are to be used should be given well in advance of the breeding season;
- Avoid, if possible, stressful events during the period;
- Heifers must be well grown and ideally cycling previously;
- Cows should be on a rising plane of nutrition, not under conditioned and free from ill-health;
- Cows should be at a minimum 40 days calved; if she had a difficult calving or retained placenta, she may need longer or examination by a professional;
- Once the heat has been established, use a competent inseminator.
Heifers can be the easiest animals to synchronise often just requiring heat detection and one treatment with prostaglandin (PG) (figure 3 for commercial names).
The protocol in figure 1 can be used very effectively to breed the majority of heifers in 10 days and is the cheapest.
Alternatively, you could skip the initial 6 days of heat detection and use PG on day one, inseminate to standing heat and complete the protocol as shown from there on.
Suckler cows can be slower to return to heat as the suckling inhibition from the calf can slow down the return to cycling activity.
However, the majority of protocols will encourage the cow to cycle even if she has not been cycling previously.
The protocol in figure 2 can be used on cows:
Inadvertent administration of prostaglandin to a cow/heifer during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy will cause abortion.
As a part-time suckler farmer, I find synchronisation to be an effective tool in facilitating the use of AI. Over the last number of years, conception rates to this protocol have averaged 70% on my farm.
I usually work the protocols around weekends when more time can be allocated to gathering the cows and completing the treatments.
When using these protocols, if the cow repeats it will happen 18 to 24 days later, so time can be allocated to watch repeats as you know when to expect them.
There is no doubt that synchronising cows is not lowâcost but I find when it is successful the benefits of an AI calf and time management, it is well worth it.
Good luck with your breeding season.
Article written by Francis Curran, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare