Posted By: Rosie Lyle

The 2023/24 Shepton Top 10 Season Review

Another winter discussion group season is now behind us, and once again, we’ve seen lots of top performances in our Shepton herds. 

Genetics –

Our first meeting was on genetics. Vet Charlie led the discussions, and all our herds were benchmarked on £PLI or £ACI. The big takeaway was understanding your herd’s genetic baseline and then setting some breeding goals that suit your herd. The AHDB herd genetic report is a great place to start. Our Shepton Top10 Champion for genetics was Chris Dunn; both his milking herd and youngstock are in the top 5% for £PLI when benchmarked against the UK Holstein herd. We have some new analysis tools to assess your herd’s genetic performance and an opportunity to dip a toe into genomic testing through a discounted 20-cow screen. Please speak to your herd vet for more details on this one. 

Fertility –

Fertility is key to performance, and this was the topic of our second discussion group led by Paddy and Rob, who benchmarked the fertility performance in our AYR and Block calving herds. AYR herds this time were ranked and given a bronze, silver, or gold status. Paddy used Preg Rate as a tool to do the final benchmark, but we dove into lots of interesting fertility metrics along the way. 

Shepton Gold Herds achieved 68% of cows submitted for service by 80 days, compared to 55% of cows submitted by 80 days. Detecting 3-week returns was also much higher for gold-performing herds compared to bronze. Almost 60% of our herds are now using activity monitors for heat detection, some very successfully and others not so well. The average conception of the gold group was 50%, with the top herd being 63%. Our AYR fertility champion was Greens at Court Barn, with an average PR of 27%. 

The Shepton block herd’s average block length was 12 weeks. The average conception rate was 54%, with the highest being 64%. The 3-week submission average was 80%, with the highest being 90%. Getting cows and heifers in calf at the start of the block was the key take-home message to drive performance and reduce the empty rate. Be proactive, carry out pre-mating heat detection, and act early with fertility treatments if required. Our top-ten block fertility winner was The Garretts at White House Farm. 

Youngstock –

Heifers’ fertility performance within the herd is a barometer for youngstock performance. Youngstock vets Anna and Rosie led the final discussions. We used age at first calving (AFC) as our benchmark metric, as well as % survival to lactation. The lowest AFC was 23 months, and the oldest was 3.5 years. The Shepton median AFC is 787d (25.8 months), which is lower than the national median AFC of 799d (26.2 months). 

Most research agrees that the optimum AFC is between 22 and 25 months, inclusive. An AFC below and above this range can reduce first 305-day lactation and lifetime milk yields, fertility, and chances of surviving to a second lactation, along with a lower economic return. These animals must grow and meet liveweight targets through their rearing period to be successful in reaching the AFC target at calving and surviving. Congratulations to our youngstock champion, the Millers, at Evercreech Park Farm.

Well done to all the Shepton Top10 winners this year. 

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