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What do the 2016 Reproductive Performance numbers say?
15 Aug 2017

We’ve had a look into last season’s spring mating results*, and the last 3 years trends, to see how things panned out after a challenging 2016 season.  The results show that reproductive performance in 2016 has dropped slightly, but it’s not all bad news.   

The key highlights from the 2016 national mating results are:

  • More farmers have quality data to make decisions with as 46% of all InCalf Fertility Focus reports are now Detailed, up 3% on last year
  • The national average 6 week in-calf rate has declined by 0.9% this year to 66%, which fits with what we have been hearing from the field
  • This drop in 6 week in-calf rate is as a result of a drop in both submission and conception rates
    • Herd and Heifer (first calvers) 3 week submission rates both dropped this year, 2.1% and 2.3% respectively, so it looks like the first calvers took a harder hit than the older cows
    • The drop in conception rate was not as great as for submission rate, just a 0.9% drop
  • Only 4% of the herds reached the 95% industry target for heat detection
    • This indicates that there is still a big opportunity in the industry to improve our heat detection efficiency and pick up more heats, or to increase our ability to get our cows cycling for mating
  • In contrast to reports from the field, not-in-calf rate is the same this year as last year (17%), with average total mating length being just under 11 weeks both years
    • Not-in-calf rate is the percentage of animals that are not recorded as pregnant – cows recorded as Empty, cows still recorded as Doubtful, cows culled without a pregnancy test result and the cows still recorded as being in the herd but don’t have a pregnancy test result recorded
  • On the bright side, the Herd and Heifer (first calvers) calving patterns have improved over the last 3 seasons
    • The improvement in heifer calving patterns ties in with the improvement in heifer liveweights reported  in the Growing Heifers article by LIC

2016 National Mating Results

So what does this all mean?

We have had a hard couple of seasons with the payout and an unfavourable 2016 spring, but we are coming out the other side now.  We are doing a good job of tightening calving pattern, so what’s next on the ‘To Do’ list?

  • Work on ensuring our cows have a smooth transition period;
  • Make sure they are at target body condition score at calving & mating, and
  • Couple both of these with top notch heat detection at mating time

Nailing these should help you maximise your 3 week submission rate and conception rate, and ultimately lift your 6 week in-calf rate.

Want more info, data or graphs?  Get in touch with us at  For those of you who love stats, here are some other interesting results.

Results by Island

  • 3 week submission rate dropped more in the North Island than in the South Island
  • For conception rate it dropped more in the South Island than in the North Island
  • Despite these differences, both Islands had a similar drop in 6-week in-calf rate and there was no difference in not-in-calf rate between the Islands

3 Year Reproduction Trends – North Island vs South Island

Quartile results

For these results the herds have been ranked from highest to lowest 6 week in-calf rate and split into quartiles.

3 Year Reproduction Trends – Quartiles


Who is in the top quartile?

  • More of the herds in the top quartile (TQ) are in North Island but interestingly, the North Island also has more of herds in the bottom quartile (BQ) as well
  • The average herd size of the TQ in 2014 was 511 cows and the average herd size of the BQ was 516 cows
  • Over the last 3 years, the TQ has dropped cow numbers quite a bit more than the BQ – 31 cows vs 8 cows

6 Week In-Calf Rate

  • Herds in the TQ had an average 6 week in-calf rate of 75.1% in 2016, down 0.6% on 2015
  • The gap between the top and bottom quartiles for 6 week in-calf rate has gotten larger over the last 3 years – the 20.2% gap in 2014 has increased to 20.7% in 2016
  • This indicates that TQ herds have a more resilient farm system

Not-In-Calf Rate

  • The TQ’s 2016 not-in-calf rate was 12.6%; for the BQ it was 21.7%
    • The BQ herds mate for 9 days longer on average, so it is not surprising that the gap between the TQ and BQ for not-in-calf rate is not a big as it is for 6 week in-calf rate (9% difference in not-in-calf rate vs 20% difference in 6 week in-calf rate)
  • As a group, both the TQ and BQ’s are not hitting their expected not-in-calf rates, but the TQ herds are only 3% higher than expected whereas the BQ is 8% higher

Herd 3 Week Submission Rate

  • The drop in submission rate was pretty similar across all quartiles, around 3%
  • The TQ’s 2016 submission rate was 83.6%

Conception Rate

  • The TQ’s 2016 conception rate was 58.4%, close to the 60% industry target
  • The drop in conception rate over the last 3 years was smaller than the drop in submission rate

Heat Detection

  • While the TQ herds had better heat detection efficiency (fewer missed heats) and accuracy (fewer invented heats) than the other quartiles, it was the TQ that had the biggest increase in missed heats (lower 3 week submission rate of the early calved mature cows)

Calving Pattern

  • The Herd and Heifer calving patterns have improved over the last 3 years
  • The top two quartiles are now hitting the Herd 6 week calving pattern target of 87%, but it is the other two quartiles that have made the biggest improvement in their calving patterns
  • The gap between the quartiles decreases as you go further through calving - the gap is smaller at week 9 of calving than at week 3 of calving
    • This is not surprising because if you mate for long enough eventually most of your cows will get in calf.  But what the TQ herds are getting as a result of their faster 3 & 6 week calving patterns is more days in milk before Christmas, more cows in calf to AB, plus the other benefits of a fast calving

*The herds analysed were spring calving seasonal herds that had a Detailed InCalf Fertility Focus report (3857 herds).  The data was collected from LIC & DairyNZ.


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