Dairy farmers are driving profitability and improving animal health by embracing best practice for fertility management.
As the Australian dairy industry works toward achieving its targets for the complete phase out of calving induction, dairy farmers are already ahead of schedule when it comes to reducing their reliance on induction.
While the industry first committed to phasing out calving induction in 2015, new targets have now been set to reduce calving induction to 8 per cent in 2019, 6 per cent in 2020 and 5 per cent in 2021, before completely phasing out the practice by 2022.
The new targets were set by the industry as farmers demonstrated their commitment and tangible progress in reducing the practice on-farm.
For many farmers, ceasing to use calving induction produces good outcomes for their herd by reducing wastage and improving animal health, welfare and performance.
Tasmanian dairy farmer Stuart Burr has gone seven years without using calving induction on his farm at Ringarooma in north-eastern Tasmania.
Mr Burr began share-farming in 2008, and was motivated to increase his wealth by growing his asset base through improving the reproductive performance of his stock.
The farm business is still in a growth phase, with the effective milking area on the farm having grown from 120 hectares to 180ha in a single year.
The herd size has increased from 350 cows to 410, and Mr Burr has set a goal to milk 500 cows by the end of 2019.
Despite being aided by a large allocation of reliable irrigation water, Mr Burr believes his farm is best suited to a single seasonal calving pattern.
His theory is supported by a thorough history of pasture growth records that he has kept by conducting a weekly farm walk to measure pasture density.
Now in his eighth year since phasing out calving induction, Mr Burr said he simply did not like inducing calves.
"We consider it a waste to induce calving you waste your opportunity to have a calf," he said.
"Cows that are not induced produce more milk. By not inducing, your calves and cows are healthier, your cows milk better, they're not as stressed, and they get in-calf more easily."
Mr Burr was able to phase out calving induction on his farm by taking advantage of best practice calving techniques, and by attending Dairy Australia's InCharge fertility workshops, available through Regional Development Programs.
"This program helped me improve the whole system and our breeding strategy to get better results," he said.
While initially using induction to condense his calving pattern, Mr Burr said he believed this practice did not make his farm more profitable.
"Inductions only mask the problem they don't fix the problem," he said. "The real problem is getting cows in-calf early."
Mr Burr's fertility program is now focused on earlier in-calf rates through a more targeted breeding program and a shortened timeframe, which has driven better outcomes for the herd.
"We've gone pretty hard on our mating period to breed better animals," Mr Burr said. "We only mated for three weeks and three days this year with our heifers, and only seven weeks with our cows."
Dairy farmers can access a range of resources to improve their herd's reproductive performance through Dairy Australia at dairyaustralia.com.au/calvinginduction.
This story first appeared on Australian Dairyfarmer