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Reproductive Management of Dairy Cows with Particular Reference to Organic Systems Michael G Diskin & Frank Kelly Animal Production Research Centre, Teagasc, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway. Biological Efficiency. Reproduction . Production Efficiency. Profitability.

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Reproductive Management of Dairy Cows with Particular Reference to Organic Systems Michael G Diskin & Frank KellyAnimal Production Research Centre, Teagasc, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway.

Biological Efficiency


Production Efficiency


Overall Requirements for Organic Milk Production Systems

  • Compact seasonal calving patterns,

  • Maximal production from grazed grass,

  • Low involuntary culling rates

  • Continuous genetic improvement of the herd

Reproductive Targets

Compact Calving: 90% calved in < 80 days

Low Culling Rate for infertility: < 5%.

Calving Interval: 365 day calving-to-calving.

Shortening Post-partum interval

Improving Reproductive efficiency

Submission Rates

Conception Rates

Post-Partum Interval

Dairy CowsMean=26 days(15-50 Days)

Beef CowsMean=55 days(25-180 Day)

Postpartum reproduction - cattle

Aim to have a calf per cow per year with peak lactation to correspond with peak grass growth

To Ensure Rapid Onset of Oestrous Cycles Post Calving

  • Cows calve in a moderate BCS

  • Ensure high DM intakes post calving & minimise BCS loss – Minimise Negative Energy Balance (NEB)

  • Calve heifers early

  • Consistently use Sire with strongly positive sub indices for Fertility

Main Factors Affecting Pregnancy Rate

Conception Rate

Pregnancy Rate

Heat Detection Rate

The Effect of Different Heat Detection and Conception Rate on % of Herd Pregnant at 90 Days After Onset of Breeding Season

Heat Detection


  • Use of AI

  • Heat detection

  • Factors affecting conception rate

Primary Sign of Heat

Secondary Signs of Heat

  • Sliming

  • Restlessness

  • Mounting activity

  • Trailing other cows

  • Bellowing

  • Mounting or dirt marks

  • Skin Marks

  • Met-oestrous bleeding

Mucous vaginal discharge

Chin resting

Factors affecting the Expression of heatTeagasc, Athenry Results

Effect of underfoot surface on number of mounts received per heifer during standing heat.

Effect of underfoot surface on duration of heat

Effect of number of heifers in heat simultaneously on the number of mounts received heifer during standing heat.

Duration of Standing Heat

  • Average = 8 -14 hours (Range 3-30 hours)

  • Similar for cows and heifers

  • Range 3-30 hours

  • Interruptions in standing activity

Pattern of heat Onset

Improving heat detection

  • Commitment and understanding heat behaviour

  • Tail paint

  • Oestrus Alert Patches

  • Teaser Bull

Teaser Bulls

  • Use yearling bull

  • Vasectomise 6 weeks before intended use

  • Fit with chin-ball 2-3 weeks before introduction to herd

  • Castrate or sell at end of breeding season

Management Factors Affecting Conception Rate

Reproductive OutcomesBritish Friesian vs Holstein Friesian

British Friesian 1980

Holstein Friesian 2005

10-15% decline in conception for each 0.5 unit change in BCS between calving and AI.

Change in BCS and conception rate

Effect of Calving to Service Interval on Conception Rate

Effect of AI timing on Conception Rate

Effect of Calving Difficulty on Conception Rate

Use High EBI (Economic Breeding Index sires)


Long-term improvement of cow fertility

Production: Yield fat + Protein

Reproduction: Calving interval

Cow survival

Summary -1

  • Calve cows in a moderate BCS

  • Minimise BCS loss in early lactation.

  • Have cows gaining in BCS at breeding.

  • Have heifers well-grown (350-380 kg) at 15 months.

  • Breed to calve early.

  • Minimise the risk of calving difficulty .

Summary -2

  • Increase submission rates by paying particular attention to heat detection.

  • Use tail-paint.

  • Carry out pre-breeding heat detection.

  • Ensure that the semen used is of high fertility

  • Use AI Sires with negative values for calving interval and positive values for survival

  • Correct AI technique

  • Inseminate cows at the correct time.

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