Dairy Health Plans
InCalf is a programme which was created in Australia but adapted for New Zealand dairy farmers. Its mission statement is "To enable dairy farmers to achieve measured improvement in herd reproductive performance”.
To improve reproductive performance farmers must be able to:
- Assess the current reproductive performance of the herd
- Assess their scope for improvement and the likely benefits;
- Determine their options for change; and
- Implement their chosen changes
Our dairy industry now has a targeted Six Week InCalf rate (6WICR) of 78%, which is achievable but currently a long way above the average NZ herd performance. Herds which a have high 6WICR will also have low empty rates.
The Veterinary Centre has 12 trained InCalf advisors, who can help you improve reproduction using the process above. The key starting point is to get quality data to analyse through ‘foetal aged pregnancy testing” which is done from mid-January to mid-February (6-8 weeks after the end of AI). We do this using the Infovet programme. Using this information we can assess the eight key areas which have been identified to have a combined influence on a herd’s fertility. These are:
A mature cow takes an average of 45 days to resume cycling after calving. The sooner she calves after the Planned Start of Calving (PSC), the more likely she will cycle on her own before the Planned Start of Mating (PSM). Also the more cycles she has before mating begins the higher her conception rate when mated will be. Too many late calving cows reduce herd fertility.
Nutritional Status and Body Condition
A good measure of a cow’s nutritional status is her body condition or the change in body condition over a period of time. A 1-10 Body Condition Scoring (BCS) System is used in New Zealand. The optimal targets for reproductive performance are:
BCS at calving for a mature cow is 5.0-5.5. With not more than 15% of cows above or below these figures. The target for heifers is 5.5-6.0.
- Not more than 1 BCS loss post calving.
- Not more than 15% of cows below BCS 4.0 at PSM.
- Maintenance of a positive energy balance through the mating period.
- Cows should be BCSed on a regular basis to ensure these targets are being met.
Trace mineral status is also important as deficiencies may cause anoestrus, increased risk of uterine infection and early embryonic death. Regular herd monitoring via blood test and liver biopsies pre-calving, premating and dry off can identify problems early.
How you rear your young stock not only has a big bearing on their lifetime milk production potential but also their ability to get pregnant. The genetic live weight target for a herd or line of animals can easily be sought from your genetics company. Heifers should reach;
- 30% of their mature live weight by 6 months of age.
- 60% by 15 months (first mating) of age.
- 90% by 22 months of age.
Your vet can help you set up an animal health programme for young stock which will include a regular weighing programme to ensure targets are being met.
Non-Cyclers and Heat Detection
To have good 6WICR you must achieve good 3 week submission rates (SR). Non-cyclers and poor heat detection will both influence the SR. The best way to prevent non-cyclers is to ensure the proceeding points have been managed well, but once you get to the start of mating early identification and hormonal treatment of these cows will be financially beneficial.
It is important that aids be used to help with accurate heat detection. Tail paint, Scratchies and KMars are the most commonly used methods, but they rely on regular maintenance and close scrutiny for the best results.
Genetics and Artificial Breeding
Management practices have the greatest bearing on repro performance, but long term strategies include selecting bulls which have higher fertility breeding values which they will pass onto their daughters. At the time of artificial breeding it is important that cows are held in a stress free environment and mated within 0-24 hours of the first signs of standing heat. Good facilities should be set up to assist the technician to perform a swift and comfortable job.
Lameness and mastitis have been shown to have an indirect impact on reproduction. Trace element deficiencies have been covered under nutrition. Uterine infections can be minimised through good nutritional management, but early detection and treatment of infections 2-4 weeks post calving markedly increase a cows chances of getting back in calf.
The main infectious diseases affecting reproduction in New Zealand cows are Nepospora and BVD. These are complex diseases and should be discussed with your vet.
Most local herds will AB cows for a 4-8 week period, before following up with bulls to catch any cows still not pregnant. Inadequate bull numbers, lameness, low libido and small size are the most common factors in bull failure.
Infovet is a ground breaking web based software programme designed specifically for vets to analyse and help their clients. Our practice was one of the first to start using Infovet and it has now become an essential part of our business to help provide quality service and advice.
Infovet uses data collected from; the LIC/CRV data base, Fonterra Fencepost and information directly imputed by the veterinarian. This information is held securely in the Infovet data base. A large number of easily accessible reports can be produced to identify key problematic areas for a farm.
The four main ways we use Infovet are to:
- Monitor developing problems.
- Capture data
- Analyse data
- Plan, Benchmark and Measure.
Monitoring Problems - Infovet Alerts Function
Sometimes problems can creep up on a farmer over time without them recognising a problem is occurring. Within the Infovet programme we have an ‘Alerts’ function which we can set to trigger when a certain production or health associated threshold is reached.
We routinely use this to identify farms which are a have a high BMSCC or a high incidence of mastitis, lameness, metabolic disease or poor submission rate.
Data Capture – Pregnancy Testing Module and Cow Body Condition Scoring
One of the biggest challenges with analysing data is ensuring it is there in a quality form in the first place. Infovet has an off line Pregnancy Testing programme which means we have complete access to all individual cows mating dates within a herd. These are then matched to the foetal size when pregnancy scanning. This process is very fast and at the end of the test the data is uploaded directly into the LIC database, providing efficient and accurate data handling. The data is then available both to the farmer through MINDA or the vet via Infovet.
We also use Infovet on a routine basis to record and report herd or individual cow body condition score. This can be used to help make immediate decisions around nutritional management, but it can also be used at the end of the year to identify potential causes of poor reproductive performance.
Infovet has a large suite of reports to look at components of production data, mastitis incidence, reproductive data and cow body condition score. The graphs are presented in an easy to follow form and are used as a basis for our milk quality and reproductive reviews.
Plan, Benchmark and Measure
We use this information to retrospectively measure the success of new measures, benchmark a farm against industry targets, compare between seasons and help plan for next season. We have found that the more we present to our clients the more they are prepared to record information. Being able to use a farms own information in the decision making process is very powerful.
An example would be measuring the benefit of CIDR treatment on farm to see if the investment paid off. This was measured in the pregnancy rate graph below.
Two groups of non-cyclers were treated on this 820 cow farm. 207 were treated before the PSM and 28 and the 24th day of mating. As the graph shows both of these groups had tremendous results, making it an easy decision for the farmer to repeat this programme again next season.
Tracecheck - Trace Element Monitoring Programme
Tracecheck is our trace element and metabolic status monitoring programme. It is made up of three key monitoring points from throughout the annual calendar.
- Dry off – This can either be done on livers from cull cows (five) collected from the abattoir or via liver biopsies and blood samples from retained cows. In particular it is important to monitor liver copper levels at this time of year to ensure cows are not accumulating toxic levels of this trace mineral. Levels measured will guide on requirements for supplementation over the dry period.
- Peri-calving – Ideally we look to take bloods from 10 cows on their fourth day post calving, to identify the success of the transition management and trace mineral status going into the calving period. This should be done as soon as a farm has calved 10 or more mature cows a day. Blood parameters indicating excessive fat mobilisation at around calving can usually be rectified through changes in springer/colostrum management.
- Pre-mating – Ideally this should be taken about 3-4 weeks before the planned start of mating to ensure that cows are going into mating in an optimal status. 10 blood samples are required at this time.
- Other – herds which have high liver copper levels in the proceeding Autumn, should be liver biopsied again after cessation of all copper supplements. The optimal times to test young stock are going in the late Autumn and again in September.
Our practice is well placed to help and advise with farm conversions to dairy. The main areas we can help are in:
- Helping provide an understanding of herd BW and PW
- Scrutiny of herd records to highlight potential risks with high Somatic Cell Count Herds
- Ensuring that purchase contract does not allow more than 4% late calving cows. You want to purchase a herd that has a compact calving period.
- Suggested request for dated pregnancy testing
- Discussion around acceptable herd Body Condition Score at date of takeover.
- Awareness of other diseases which should be questioned – i.e. Johnes, BVD, Liver Fluke, TB, Leptospirosis.
- Dry cow therapy advice to ensure the herd you purchase arrives in top udder health.
- We offer free pasture analysis on new conversions to identify farm unique potential trace element deficiencies or macro element deficiencies which may predispose to metabolic disease or bloat.
- Liver fluke risk or Aquatic poa (cyanide poisoning) risk due to the farm environment.
- Seasonal geographic risk factors.
Milking Plant and Staff Training
- Most milking plants now days are well set up and so limit the risk of the machine causing damage to the milking machine. Occasionally however we see one that is increasing the risk of mastitis development. Having one of our Advanced Mastitis accredited vets on farm in the first few weeks of calving to assess the milking machine and staff management can seriously reduce the costs associated with mastitis over the first season and for seasons to come.
- We can offer tailored staff training packages to ensure everyone is ready to hit the ground running in the first spring.
- Most herds are taken into possession on the 1st of June. It is a good idea to get them body condition scored as soon as you receive them to help calculate feed requirements for the winter. You may wish to carryon going this over the winter.
- It is also good to blood test cows at this time to ensure no trace element deficiencies have taken place.
- Most contracts will stipulate a right of return on any cows pregnancy tested not pregnant found within 7 days of receipt.
Yard and Lane Design
There are a number of set recommendations around track and yard design that you should be aware of before actioning your final design plans. Getting these wrong can result in costly long term lameness issues. We have a comprehensive list of these general principals.
The monitoring of heifer live-weight is critical to her reaching her individual live-weight BV target. Grow Right offers farmers and graziers the service of weighing calves – either as a one off option or on a regular program when heifers are weighed five times between weaning and mating as a 15 month old. These weights are linked to Minda and reported back to farmers together with the three graphs available through Minda Weights ie “Young Stock Trend’ graph, ‘Weight Ranges’ chart, and ‘Animal Performance’ scattergram. ‘Weight for age’ targets can be easily monitored and these weights provide a platform for open discussion about the feeding and animal health program for these heifers, should they be underweight.
The winter period is a critical period for cow weight gain, so she can return to the dairy platform in her targeted Body Condition Score (BCS) for calving. Winter Right offers farmers and graziers the service of crop measurement, including Dry Matter assessment, so crop yield can be calculated as accurately as possible. Allocation and utilisation of daily intake can be measured against regular BCS visits. Cows are usually BCS’ed onto winter crop, scored again mid-winter to assess how winter grazing is going and then BCS’ed prior to cows returning to the dairy platform. This monitoring and reporting allows timely adjusting of daily allowance, if needed to maximise body condition score gain.
Calf Rearing Workshop
The Veterinary Centre is now offering on farm calf rearing workshops. Calves are an essential ingredient on any dairy farm - a well grown calf sets up your farming future, while a poor calf can limit your potential. Our work shops will educate your calf rearing team, as well as creating a tailored plan for your farm that will maximise calf growth while minimising the risks of disease.
Work shops will include:
Calf pick up
- Calf trailers + hygiene
- Navel disinfection
- Pick up timing
- Why is it important?
- Tubing calves (demonstration + practice)
- Milk – how much and how often?
- Meal feeding – why and how much?
- Farm plan – putting the theory into practice
The sick calf
- Diagnosis – signs + thermometer use
- Treatment – what drugs to use
- Scours – which bug + electrolyte plans
- Human health – zoonoses
- Isolation + Disinfection (stopping the spread)
- When to call the vet
The Calf Rearing Shed
- Drafts and air flow
- Cleaning procedures
Get in touch with one of our clinics to book a space for your Calf Rearing Workshop. We are aiming to run the work shops as the earliest cows calve, to enable teaching of the practical components (such as tube feeding, naval disinfection and bug sampling).
Spring Training Seminars
The work on a dairy farm never really stops. At calving time, in the spring, there is a lot happening, and it’s vitally important time for the productivity of the farm.
To ensure staff are fully prepared for the spring rush The Veterinary Centre offers on farm workshops and clinic based small group workshops aimed at giving farm workers the necessary knowledge and hands on skills to face animal health tasks typically encountered in the calving period. This training is suitable for both new farmers and as a refresher for more experienced people.
Topics include recognizing and taking action for common spring diseases and conditions:
- Calvings; when and how to intervene.
- Prolapsed uterus’s and, retained cleanings.
- Downer cows and metabolic treatment.
- Sick cows and correctly marking, recording and treating with animal remedies.
- Mastitis and colostrum mob management.
- Calves early care, colostrum, dealing with scours.
- Understanding responsibility of animal care.
Getting the team off to a confident start in the busy and often stressful period of spring will help to minimize animal health issues on your farm
SmartSAMM is an online resource to improve udder health and milk quality, resulting in:
- Time savings at milking
- Healthier cows and happier people
- More production and profit
We will assist you in using this resource, and others, to achieve your goals regarding milk quality. SmartSAMM can be the basis for your staff training, and in conjunction with you and your staff we can develop policies and procedures that will get you the farm specific results you want.
Are you grading? If so we can turn up and carry out a grade bust to stop you grading. Once the immediate problem is under control then we will assist you in setting up policies and procedures to control the spread of infection and to identify infected cows early. We have a team of vets with Advanced Mastitis accreditation whom are eligible for compensation under the Fonterra demerit relief scheme, so intervention may not cost you anything.
Are you treating too many clinical cases? If so we have the ability to analyse your records to classify the problem according to time and who is getting mastitis, this in conjunction with milk samples allows a tailored solution to be created for your farm.
We run a fully staffed trailer for teatsealing your heifers at run off blocks. Teatseal administration significantly decreases the incidence of heifer mastitis during the calving period. Heifers can be safely and efficiently teatsealed any time from May onwards. If the heifers are close to the shed during the winter we can also assist with Teatseal insertion with, or without, sedation.
We can design, run or oversee trials across a range of species, and now in multiple sites in collaboration with our colleagues at Frankin Vets, south of Auckland. Whether you want to evaluate a management change on your farm or in your discussion group, or are a company looking to evaluate a product on real farms with real farmers please feel free to contact us. Recent trial work has included work on repro programmes, phantom cows, teatseal, combination products, footrot, and InCalf work.
Are you having lameness issues? We have two trained providers of the DairyNZ Healthy Hoof programme, a programme which involves diagnosing causes of lameness on farms and putting in place strategies to reduce these risk factors. Causes are often multi-factorial, but usually include the use of gates during milking, feed-off pads, entranceways, and farm tracks.
The programme also includes sessions such as a “Lameness Prevention Workshop” where farm staff are taught about causes of lameness, and a farm specific plan is put in place to target risk factors on your farm. We have had tremendous success with these courses in the past, with improvements not just in lameness but also cow flow and milking speed. It is also a great course to do at the start of a season (especially with lots of new staff members) so that yarding procedures can be standardised to ensure a smooth milking throughout the year.
Mating is a hectic time in the Dairy calendar and it is easy to forget the small (but often crucial) details that can lead to a brilliant result at the other end. ReproReady is designed to provide a checklist of reminders to discuss during a sit-down meeting with one of our vets. It helps ensure nothing is missed AND that your mating strategies are put in place in a cost-effective and co-ordinated manner.
Including reminders about cow health, heifer management, heat detection, non-cyclers, bulls, BVD, Trace Elements, and AB management it truly is a comprehensive planning tool which can offer massive benefits to any farmer.
This package works well within the InCalf framework and is often used in the pre-mating period in conjunction with your Fertility Focus Report.