The start of mating is just around the corner for dairy herds, which always raises the question of the best way to manage non-cycling cows. It is an even bigger question given the recent decrease in forecasted milk payout and the conditions leading up to the2023 mating season.
Many herds milked late at the end of last season, so cows had less time than in other seasons to recover and put on condition during the dry period. Following on the heels of this shorter dry period, cold wet weather during calving has resulted in slow grass growth and poor feed quality. This all increases the time that cows take to start cycling properly after calving and could result in increased numbers of non-cyclers in your herd.
The first step to managing the non-cycling cows is finding them! Heat detection aids need to be applied by 35 days before the start of mating to allow enough time to pick up cows that aren’t cycling. Pre-mating heat detection means you know whether your herd has high numbers of non-cycling cows, and you can make decisions about appropriate treatment early, rather than realizing that your herd is in trouble after AB has already started.
Treating non-cyclers makes money in the long-term, as treated cows get in calf earlier and have more days in milk next season. There are two key pitfalls that can reduce profitability from a non-cycler treatment program, and a drop in milk payout makes it more important than ever to avoid these. Firstly, you will make the most profit from treating non-cycling cows before mating starts, and the later you leave it the less money you will make from a treatment program. Secondly, the most profitable treatment program is the one that produces the best conception rate, so use the best program you can afford.
Now is the perfect time to make a budget and work out how much money you can assign to treatment of non-cyclers. Work with your vet to plan the best approach for your herd, which may include options like targeting treatment towards only some of your non-cycling cows.
We acknowledge that farm finances are tight this season and so are offering free early pregnancy scanning of non cycling cows treated before the start of mating.