THE INTRODUCTION OF AI ALONGSIDE THE BULL RESULTS IN 20 CALVES THAT WERE AN ADDITIONAL 10KG HEAVIER FOR RICHARD TUDOR.
Richard Tudor runs his 140 strong, spring-calving suckler herd (predominately comprised of Saler and Simmental cows) from his 700 acre farm in Welshpool, Mid Wales.Richard currently supplies Asda and is a member of the Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC, Meat Promotion Wales) board and Farming Connect.
Richard currently operates on a 15% herd replacement rate and aims to produce approximately 130 calves each year. Bull calves are sold at 10 months old and roughly 25 heifers are kept as replacements. In order to achieve this, he concentrates his attention on maximising the number of calvings during the first 21 days of the calving season. Richard has carried out extensive research into US breeding and the benefits of first-period calving and has found significant evidence to suggest that heifers who calve in the first-period go on to remain in the herd for much longer.
“The benefits of first-period calving are extensive. Greater efficiency can be achieved by reducing the calving season, for example it means that during that time I can solely focus on good cow husbandry, and newborn calf management. Those 21 days are of great significance – calves born in those first 21 days gain more weight and therefore attract a higher sale value. It also helps greatly with grouping and creates more structure, for example, it means that I can carry out vaccinations and diet changes at the same time,” commented Richard. “My animals tend to gain around 1kg in weight each day whilst on their mother – this is why it’s so crucial that they are born in the first calving-period. If a calf is born at the end of the second period, its weight gain at the time of selling could be up to 40kg less, compared to that of a calf born in the first period. Last year, by having more cows conceive in the first cycle I managed to sell 20 calves that were an additional 10kg heavier because they had those extra days to grow,” continued Richard.
Heifers are first bred at 15 months of age or when they reach a weight of 440kg. “There are economic benefits to calving heifers at two years – they will produce an extra calf in their lifetime,” said Richard.
Eight years ago Richard started using AI to help him to achieve his objective of first-period calving. “I use AI to help maximise the number of pregnancies that can be achieved in the first three weeks, particularly in my heifers. My aim is to get 100% of my cows to calve in the first-calving period. It’s a tall order, but I think with time it’s achievable. This year 90% calved in the first six weeks and all animals successfully produced a calf,” said Richard.
“Personally I don’t like to run more than 20-25 cows per bull as there is a risk of the bull becoming run-down or injured. Realistically, for my 120 cow herd I would need at least seven bulls. However, by using some AI, it means that I only have a requirement for four bulls on farm (each costing between £500 and £600 per year to maintain). AI not only helps to reduce the pressure placed on the bull, but also helps to alleviate the costs associated with keeping a bull on farm. AI enables you to have the bullpower without the bulls,” continued Richard.
The average weight of Richard’s cows is currently around 750kg. He would like to reduce this to 650kg and is therefore considering introducing native bloodlines, such as Angus, to help reduce cow stature.
“I plan to increase my use of AI in the future, but to do this I need to master synchronisation. My motto is that you should never rest on your laurels, there’s always something that you can do to improve.”
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