Faced with rising feed costs? 

Feed costs keeps rising, exerting more pressure on dairy farmers to run an efficient business.

Don’t underestimate the value of bull fertility testing.

Despite the continued decrease in the total breeding herd over the past decade, milk production has increased to over 15 billion litres in 2020/21 (source: Statista).  In 2018 the average dairy herd size had 148 cows, these numbers are likely to have increased but are not yet published (source: House of Commons).   Promar Milkminder dairy costings show that feed costs have risen by 37.6% from November 2021 to November 2022, exerting more pressure on dairy farmers to run an efficient business.  

Veterinary advisor, Phil Elkins of MooVet Consultancy, developed Return on Investment calculators for Dyneval that help farmers to understand the benefit of bull fertility testing prior to breeding – this can be made available to registered customers.  According to AHDB, fewer than 20% of farms follow a tight block calving system so that the majority of farms are following a system closer to an All Year Round Calving system.  While the British Veterinary Cattle Association recommends annual bull pre-breeding examinations prior to the breeding season, farmers sometimes overlook this important test. 

The financial return is calculated as the total benefit from reducing the Fertility Cost and increasing the total beef calf value, and results are shown in Figure 1, dependent on the herd size.  As reported in the literature, it has been assumed that 1 in 5 bulls may have low fertility with conception rates of 20% rather than a target fertility providing conception rates of 45%.  Removing the poor fertility bull results in a modest increase in conception rates from 40% to 45% – the financial benefit of this small increase is often underestimated by farmers.   With a modest Fertility Cost of £2/day/cow the minimum financial reward for the farm is just under £2,000 per annum.   The financial risk increases slightly for very small farms who may be reliant on a smaller number of bulls.  As expected, the financial risk of bulls with poor bull fertility increases as the herd size increases to over £15,000 per annum for a herd of 750 cows.   This model is underestimated since it does not consider the additional volume of milk produced from an earlier date and its sales value.    

A Bull Pre-Breeding Evaluation test performed by a vet usually costs around £100-£200 per bull – this is a modest cost when the financial returns are considered.   The automated Dynescan Semen Analyser offers precise and objective measurements of semen quality pen-side and can be used to collect video evidence and generate pdf reports so that vets and farmers can record and track bull fertility over time.    It can also be used for AI tank testing to assess the Sustained Motility Lifetime so that vets can advise on the optimum AI protocols and choice of cows/heifers for each batch of semen and can be used for quality control to ensure no batch has deteriorated since production.

Financial return: All Year Round Calving Farm

Financial return on farm if a poor fertility bull is identified pre-breeding
Figure 1: Financial return on farm if a poor fertility bull is identified pre-breeding. Presumes fertility cost of £2 per cow per day, bull serves 25 cows and modest improvement in herd conception rates from 40% to 45%. Calculated using a Return on Investment calculator tool provide by Phil Elkins of Moo Vet Consultancy.

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