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time to challenge sacred cows for secure suckler herd future


The time has come for farmers to think the unthinkable if the important sector of beef suckler farming is to have a viable future


  • In pursuit of improved financial performance and security, a common decision is whether keeping a breeding bull is the best option

  • Gains can be pursued at very similar cost to keeping a bull on the farm, explains Dr Roberts, via a CIDR-Synch programme of breeding synchronisation and fixed time artificial insemination. Apart from insertion of a controlled internal drug release (CIDR) device at the outset, all other elements can be performed by the farmer or a member of staff.

  • A farmer who has attained such gains is John Dunwell at Buskey View Farm who runs a 45-cow spring calving pedigree Blonde d'Aquitaine suckler herd in addition to working full time as a breeding technician for a large genetics business

  • In previous years with a breeding bull on the farm, Mr Dunwell says the shortest ever calving period was 10 weeks. Using synchronisation and fixed time AI, it was six weeks in 2014. "This has really helped improve cashflow,"

  • Additional advantages of the system include faster genetic gain in replacement heifers; keeping two more cows - and therefore gaining two extra calf sales - instead of the bull; selecting bulls for calving ease, which means fewer dead calves and assisted births

  • Across a number of client herds, Clevedale vet Mrs Welford vouches for the gains listed by John Burrells. In addition, she emphasises that synchronisation and fixed time AI enables easy calving bulls to be used on maiden heifers, and saves time and manpower that would otherwise be tied up on heat detection


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