LIC | Using Herd Testing to cull efficiently


Using Herd Testing to Cull Efficiently

Culling is all about choice, and  choice facilitates herd improvement.  The better on farm reproduction and animal health is, the more options you’ll have to cull based on production. This will maximise the productivity and efficiency of your herd.  Animals, objectives and on farm environments vary across the country so culling comes down to individual choices and goals.

Factors affecting culling

Understanding the situation on farm is crucial.  Factors to consider are:

•    Age
•    Reproductive performance
•    Animal health
•    Weather conditions (e.g. severely wet or drought)
•    Use of irrigation 
•    Availability and price of supplements
•    Stocking rates
 

Culling Policy

Knowing your culling policy is important.

Culling Policy
 

Culling Criteria

Information & criteria is required to come to these decisions. A typical culling criteria will include:

  • Empties
  • Old cows
  • Health issues
  • Somatic Cell Count (SCC)
  • Production (kgMS) & Production Worth (PW) 
  • Lactation Worth (LW) – Are there any one-off factors or historically good cows that are on their way out?
  • Expected calving date – Late calvers
     

Getting rid of the robbers

A robber is a cow that consumes more feed than its peers, relative to the milk solids it produces.  Getting rid of the robbers is essentially production base culling, and usually begins with identifying low or negative PW and LW animals.  Before you start getting rid of your robbers, make sure you have informed (reliable) PWs and LWs from regular Herd Testing.

“…every untested herd contains the possibility of cows whose poor work is robbing their owner every day they are kept.  It is for the business like farmer to locate these robbers.  If he fails to apply this corrective to his herd’s earning capacity, he cannot expect a great deal of sympathy if business is bad.”  (Dairyman, 19 January 1924)
 

Making the most of the tools available

  • MINDApro – Culling Guide
    • The Culling Guide allows a range of culling criteria to be selected and thresholds to be specified.  Wherever an animal meets a criteria/threshold, they will be highlighted in the report.  Try sorting by ‘Criteria Met > Descending’ to identify the animals that meet the most culling criteria. Located in MINDApro under Reports > Management Reports
  • MINDA Milk – Best & Worst
    • Use the Best & Worst tab in MINDA Milk (located at minda.co.nz) to hone in on animals with high SCC and low Production Worth (PW).  Repositioning the ‘cross-hairs’ on the graph will help separate the culls from the animals worth treating
  • Herd Testing data
    • This feeds around half of potential culling criteria, so make sure you have tests scheduled for when you’ll need them – usually throughout the lactation
  • Clean, query free records will help generate a reliable and well-informed Culling Guide.  The LIC Customer Experience Centre and Field Assist team can support you with this
     

View more information about Herd Testing with LIC.

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