This year’s two-day TotalDairy Seminar attracted over 400 delegates to a new venue, Keele University in Staffordshire. A range of international speakers discussed ways to lift dairy herd productivity through more efficient fertility, feeding and heifer rearing at the event which is lead sponsored by Zinpro and Zoetis.

 James Husband of event organisers the Evidence Group of veterinarians advised that fertility is the linchpin of overall herd efficiency. Optimum efficiency is achieved at a herd average of 180 days in milk, he said. “On average, for every month longer than 180 days in milk, you lose 2-2.5 litres a cow a day,” he noted.

Dr Paul Fricke of The University of Wisconsin-Madison maintained that good udder health is an essential prerequisite of high herd fertility. “Mastitis events occurring during the breeding risk period have a profound negative effect on fertility,” he said.

Ginny Sherwin, a veterinarian from Nottingham University presented new research on improving heifer rearing efficiency. “We found that as soon as heifers are over 24 months at first calving, the chances of them surviving into their second lactation decreases. Another Irish study also showed that if you reduce age at first calving from 27 to 24 months, the chance of staying in the herd is 10% more,” she said.

But less than 25% of UK herds average a first calving age of 23 to 24 months, she added. Addressing this factor would lead to lower rearing costs, reduced first lactation culling rates and improved 100 day in-calf rates.

Jud Heinrichs from Penn State University spoke on feed efficiency. “Maintaining high forage quality in all stages of forage management is the number one way to maximise feed efficiency,” he stated. Herd managers should maintain even body condition across the herd due to the energy cost of putting fat on and taking it off. “A lot of feed efficient farms have a lot more even body weight through lactation.”