Spring calving is in full swing as autumn herds are in the midst of weaning, and the precision livestock network, Breedr, is busy helping farmers to boost their productivity. It has launched a practical program of breeding guides and webinars to complement the free performance recording tools in its mobile and web app.
Aligned with AHDB Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Breedr’s SucklerClub has published comprehensive calving, weaning, service and pregnancy diagnosis (PD) guides. These show how farmers can easily measure vital metrics like age at first calving, calving ease and percentage of calves weaned, and then take action to improve genetics, productivity and profits.
“We have drawn on expert advice from across the industry to create practical, impartial guides for producers,” says Ian Wheal, founder of Breedr. “Collecting just a few data points at key times of the year can provide a wealth of information to drive genetics and culling decisions. Any farmer who signs up for the free app will be sent an A3 wall planner to show them exactly what to do at each phase of the cycle.”
AHDB has supported the project, joining Breedr to produce three free webinars – on calving, weaning and PD, with service to follow in April. Sarah Pick, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB, is sharing theory and best practice with Chris Freeman from Breedr demonstrating how to capture and analyse performance in the Breedr app.
Key objectives which Breedr can help farmers to meet include calving heifers at two years – saving £43 per heifer for every month delay – and maximising weaning weights, which in a 100-cow herd would increase output by nearly £2,000 for a 10kg average rise.
According to Rebecca Small, animal health and welfare scientist at AHDB, weaning should be led by feed supply and cow condition. “At 200 days calves are getting 75% of their nutritional needs from somewhere other than milk.
“The timing to wean can be led by feed supply and cow condition. If body condition score is starting to drop then farmers might consider weaning a bit earlier. Alternatively, if the cow is looking over fat, keeping the calves on a little bit longer can help pull that back.”
SucklerClub member Charlie Beaty – who farms in partnership with her father and uncle at the Dairy Farm near Coventry – will be charting her journey in managing their 85-cow suckler herd. They started using Breedr last year in a drive to boost efficiencies and adapt to changing farm support payments. As part of this, Ms Beaty is planning to use the SucklerClub guides and hopes they will help with the overall transition to a digital management system.
“We’d been looking at going more digital for a couple of years, but most tools we found couldn’t be used across three phones like we needed,” says Ms Beaty. “Most also felt quite clunky. We signed up to Breedr in 2020, but it wasn’t until calving last year when we really started to use it to input information, make notes, and create our own dataset,” she adds.
“We want everything to be at our fingertips, and the app has already made information more accessible. It makes it easier to spot under-performers, as we have the data to hand 24/7.”
SucklerClub member Rob Halliday and his wife Louise have 70 predominantly Aberdeen Angus suckler cows at Hepwell Farm, Liskeard, Cornwall, and are breeding for a more even herd and strong growth rates. Weighing regularly, Mr Halliday records everything in the app and selects the strongest performers to breed from.
“We’ve been using dam measurements to decide which heifers to keep: The offspring from the best are growing at double the rate of the worst,” he says. “The AHDB KPIs are very useful. There’s definitely value in information sharing.”
- Farmers can join SucklerClub by downloading the free Breedr app at www.breedr.co. Breedr is also offering a 25% rebate on Tru-Test scales and equipment with its new Get Weighing Grant. For more information visit www.breedr.co/shop or call 03300 436327.