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Saturday, 04 October 2008 17:32

Cattle farming systems breeding pedigree stock

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Breeding pedigree stock

Involves

Time learning about your chosen breed. You will want to buy only the best stock for your foundation cows, so take good advice from the breed society and its members.

Breeding management. You will need to get your cows in calf, either probably with AI (artificial breeding). This will be the best way to get hold of the best genes without the expense of a top bull (impractical for a small herd). AI involves spotting when your cows are in heat, getting them in the yard and arranging a technician to inseminate the cow the next morning. There are some interesting aids to heat detection to help available.

Animal identification, registration and keeping of records as required by the breed society.

Showing your stock at Agricultural shows if you want to sell pedigree stock at a premium price. This involves a lot of preparation time and handling, but rewards you with easy to handle, friendly stock and a lot of involvement with your animals. Again, the breed society will help you with advice.

Well fenced paddocks for the weaning process can be a help, although nature is marvelous, and the cows can do a pretty good job themselves without removing weaners, ready for the next calving. It is best to remove the cow to a paddock on her own with a new calf though, as the rest of the herd are all too keen to help her with it!  By that time her last calf is well weaned and does not worry about mom being in another paddock.

Well-sheltered area for the new mothers and calves, calves need to be kept warm and dry. It is not important to house a calf that is with its mother, as the constant supply of milk will keep it warm. You will have to make sure it is dry and suckling when first born. A calf cover can soon be put on if the weather is particularly cold and wet when the calf is born. Remember - you will very soon not be able to get near it, so only leave the cover on for a day, until it gets going.

A market for your pedigree offsprings, unless you are rearing them for the beef market. The breeding of dairy cows is impractical on a small block as you need to milk them and so need a milking shed and facilities, unless you mother on extra calves to use their extra milk. This is a labour intensive process, and requires a special temperament in the cow, but not impossible if you are keen.

Initial costs

Buying your foundation cows. You would be best to buy incalf cows (rather than in calf heifers who can have problems in their first calving) and these will command a premium price ranging upwards of $600 each. Contact the breed societies for an idea of the costs involved and advice on blood lines recommended.

The opportunity cost of grazing will be $5 per head per week. This would be how much you might get for grazing dairy heifers. There will be some extra cost for hay or hayledge on top of your grazing.

Animal health costs are around $1 per head per week.

No specialised equipment is required, apart from handling facilities for insemination, ear tagging, drenching etc, and electric fence for break-feeding.

Health

Problems may include

  • Scours
  • Facial Eczema
  • Internal parasites
  • External parasites
  • Staggers
  • Bloat 

Your animal health routine, if you are offering this, needs to consider:

  • Drenching for internal parasites
  • Pour on for external and internal parasites
  • Eczema control
  • Bloat control

You will also need to consider for the calves:

  • Dehorning
  • Castration
  • Ear tagging / identification 
Feed
  • Good quality pasture
  • Good quality hay or silage if needed
Return
  • The returns will depend on whether you are selling to the beef market (see above) or the pedigree market (speak to the breed society)
  • You will need to take into account the opportunity costs in keeping a breeding cow, which is about $250 per year.