Beef farmers in Wales are missing out by as much as an average £4,000 a year just by failing to follow the most efficient calving cycle for their herd.
The average age of heifers at first calving is 35 months in Wales, some eleven months greater than is recommended by industry experts
Calving at the recommended age of 24 months could yield another two calves per cow per lifetime for an average 25-strong Welsh herd. This could result in an average annual income increase of £162 per cow.
“The age at first calving has major implications for the lifetime production of a breeding suckler cow. It is recommended that the age for heifers to first calve is 24 months,” said Gwawr Parry, Industry Development Officer at Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). “The delay in a heifer’s first calving is usually due to the fear of calving immature, undersized heifers, but with the right management, heifers can, and should be run with a bull at 14 months.”
The latest BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) data shows that the average calves per lifetime are currently 5.4, with an average calving interval of 432 days. The optimum interval is 365 days.
As well as age at first calving, calving spread has a huge impact on calving interval. Fixed calving periods aid significantly in hitting that elusive 365 days; anything that does not calve within the allotted period should be culled.
“Earlier calving helps with this but it is important to consider how the cow is managed after calving and optimum weight or body condition scores are crucial,” added Gwawr Parry.
“This is a win-win situation because the benefits of calving younger include an increased number of calves per lifetime, overall considerable financial gain and at the same time, addressing climate change issues by improved on-farm efficiencies, thus achieving the greatest yield per hectare.”