Vet charts pathway to better breeding

15 Feb, 2017 02:00 AM
Esperance veterinarian Enoch Bergman has a few ideas about how to build a better cow.
The most critical thing in a beef operation, we all would agree, is getting calves on the ground.
Esperance veterinarian Enoch Bergman has a few ideas about how to build a better cow.

ENOCH Bergman has a few ideas about how to build a better cow.

The highly-respected specialist cattle veterinarian is based in Esperance and travels widely throughout WA.

But the fast-talking, joke-cracking vet is also making the rounds throughout Australia, giving beef producers scientific tips on how to improve their breeding programs.

Most recently Dr Bergman was invited to present his 'Building a Better Cow' talk at the Sheron Farm open day in Benger.

The message was all about getting calves on the ground.

"The most critical thing in a beef operation, we all would agree, is getting calves on the ground," Dr Bergman said.

"So we want to drive productivity in our breeders and in our bulls."

The presentation discussed various factors which have an impact on breeding herd productivity.

Dr Bergman's stance on joining periods for heifers was of some interest.

"I believe in letting your breeding program pick your best heifers," he said.

"In other words, ensure your heifers are given the best chance to get pregnant within a tight joining period, but be harsh on any dry heifers."

Dr Bergman got a few laughs from the crowd when he said cows were just like kids.

"You've got to look after them while they're young right?" he asked.

"But eventually you've got to let them prove themselves.

"The idea behind getting your heifers pregnant quickly within a tight window before your cows are joined, means they'll have more of a chance of performing well in the future because they'll have more time between their first and second pregnancies.

"But there isn't any room for dry females in a productive operation.

"I typically advocate joining your heifers two to three weeks ahead of your cows and for one cycle less.

"A lot of my clients are on six-week heifer joinings followed by nine weeks for the cows.

"By putting the bulls in three weeks ahead of the cows and pulling the bulls out earlier, we are buying those heifers an additional six weeks to start cycling again after they have had their first calf.

"They really need that extra time and for producers it is a free kick, and will improve the consistency of the calf crop come weaning time too.

"Integrating fixed time AI into heifer mating programs further condenses the calving pattern as well.

"A lot of my clients have me AI their heifers, and back them up for one cycle with appropriate bulls.

"Once the heifers are done with those bulls, they can go in and pinch hit in any cow mobs that have suffered bull breakdown."

Ears also pricked up when Dr Bergman dropped the "backlining is not as useful as it seems" bomb.

"It came as a surprise to me too," he said.

"But cattle don't absorb much of the drench through their skin, they actually lick it off each other.

"So naturally, that means the likelihood of all cattle in the mob getting the proper dosage is fairly slim.

"The only way to guarantee the correct amount of treatment will be delivered to the animal is through injections and the like."

Dr Bergman also pointed out the benefits of knowing the herd's micro-mineral status.

"It's fantastic to do soil testing, but in terms of animal nutrition, the only way to really understand what nutrients are being transferred from feed to the animal is by testing the animal, usually through blood testing or liver sampling," he said.

"And it's absolutely worth it, in terms of productivity, to know if your cattle need a micro-mineral top up."

Healthy bulls were also a focus with Dr Bergman pointing out some crucial health and reproductive issues which are easily addressed.

There was a big focus on the benefits of properly semen-testing bulls, including both motility and morphology as well as ensuring the bulls have been appropriately vaccinated to reduce the impact of reproductive diseases.

The principles discussed during the talk are already being implemented by a number of WA beef producers, particularly in the Esperance area.

And if the lively discussion of new ideas following Dr Bergman's presentation is anything to go by, then there might be some South West producers jumping on board in the near future.



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