There are late calvers on every farm and when breeding gets underway, the question arises whether they should be kept, or leave the system.

Some late calvers have poor levels of fertility, while others may have had issues around calving and taken longer to cycle again.

For many who are looking to compact their calving season, bringing in high genetic merit replacement heifers makes the most sense.

The target for many dairy farmers is to have a six-week calving rate of 90%, and this is no easy feat to achieve. But there are other options for these later-calving animals, apart from simply culling.

Late calvers

For some good young cows that have slipped outside the ideal calving pattern for whatever reason, one option is to use a synchronisation programme. A vet should be consulted if this is the plan.

The aim of this would be to get them cycling earlier in the breeding season, allowing them to be in-calf earlier, and thus calve earlier in spring 2024.

There is obviously a significant cost associated with a synchronisation programme, but if a farmer does not have the heifers available and needs to purchase them in, it is then far more reasonably priced.

When selecting cows that may be suitable for a synchronisation programme, it is important that they are calved a minimum of 30 days.

If done correctly, submission rates should be 100% at the timed artificial insemination (AI) point. The programme is not cheap, but it should result in a cow calving earlier and thus, higher milk sales.

In spring-calving herds, where all cows are dried in December, late calvers have lower milk production compared with a February-calved cow producing 6,500L.

  • An April-calving cow produces 900L less;
  • A May-calving cow produces 1,200L less;
  • A June-calving cow produces 1,800L less.

It is important to speak with a vet and AI technician to ensure that he/she is available when the cows need to be served.