Saturday, December 2, 2023

Poor mating could hit spring milk output

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The average percentage of cows not in calf, or empty, is around 17.6% – a 1.4% lift across the country.
Rabobank said the challenge right now with the seasonal production curve is that more dairy is being added to the GDT in the face of weak demand.  
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The dairy industry could be facing a 2.7 million kilogram milksolid production shortfall next spring due to poorer-than-normal mating results across much of New Zealand.

Six-week in-calf rates are back and empty rates are looking to be up across the country’s 4.8 million milking cows.

The poor results are the compounded result of a cold, wet winter and spring that left many farmers struggling to get their cows in optimal condition for mating. As a result, submission rates were back by 1.3%, affecting the cow’s ability to cycle.

This is based on data from LIC’s interim fertility focus report, using aged pregnancy test results uploaded from its MINDA software.

That data is based on 4400 herds and 2.4 million cows from across NZ.

Based on that data, the six-week in-calf rate is about 1% back on last year at 66.4%.

LIC general manager of NZ markets Malcolm Ellis said this is the first material change in that figure for four years, after staying largely unchanged from 2018 to 2021.

“When you calculated that out, that’s a significant amount of milking days and milk production that won’t exist next spring,” Ellis said.

The 66.4% figure is based on 75% of the herd being mixed-age cows that are retained. The remaining 25% are replacement heifers and are excluded from the calculation.

When extrapolated nationally, that 75% equates to 3.6 million cows out of the 4.8 million total number of milking cows in NZ.

 If 1% fewer of those cows calve in six weeks, it would mean there will be 36,000 cows calving six weeks later next season.

Assuming those cows are each producing about 1.8kg milk solids a day, that adds up to 2.7mkg MS in spring lost due to the lost 42 days – or 1.5 million total individual cow milking days for those 36,000 cows, he said.

The average percentage of cows not in calf, or empty, is around 17.6% – a 1.4% lift across the country.  However, Ellis said that percentage includes cows not in calf that are subject to be re-tested.

This means that it is likely that the empty rate is likely to change and he expects that figure to drift back closer to between 0.8-1% up on last year’s 16.2% empty rate.

Extrapolating that out to cows, that means 38,000-48,000 empty cows this spring, he said.

“There will be less spring milk and less spring milk related to calving spread and the second thing we will see is there will be significant additional wastage with 0.8-1% of cows leaving the industry because they are empty.”

Ellis predicted many farmers will extend their lactation of these late-calving and empty cows and take advantage of the favourable growing conditions around much of the country and delay cull decisions by a few months.

CRV managing director James Smallwood said he has heard of empty rates averaging around 12-14%. Southland farmers seemed to have fared better than those further north, thanks to more favourable conditions at mating.

In the North Island, those rates are slightly higher, he said.

“The feedback we’re getting from reps is that there is a lot of variation in the rates. You hear about some extreme cases, but anecdotally, we’re hearing about slightly better cases in the South Island. 

“It’s explainable, given the spring we have had.”

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