Pregnancy Rate on Dairy Farms – a monitoring tool or a goal?

Pregnancy rate is a parameter regularly used to assess farm productivity with regards to fertility. However, it has recently become apparent to me that this value appears to be regarded as a goal, with farmers regularly asking how their pregnancy rate compares to other farms. Whilst attending a recent CPD with ALTA, Dr Steve Eicker, a world renowned dairy consultant, lectured on the difference between goals and monitoring tools.

  • A monitoring tool is a parameter used to measure changes in order to detect success or failure of a particular system. A key requirement is that there is a short lag, so the outcome of any changes can be detected rapidly to determine if further alterations need to be made.
  • A goal is a specific target and long term aim, for instance to increase milk production per cow or reduce mastitis.

In light of this discussion, it is apparent to me that pregnancy rate is in fact a monitoring tool rather than a goal, as it can be used as a measure of the productivity of a herd and will change according to alterations in management within a very short space of time. An example of this being if feed composition for early lactation animals is altered then the pregnancy rate will subsequently change within a short timeframe, allowing the farmer to decide if modifying the feed is beneficial to farm productivity.

Thus it is important to remember that although pregnancy rate is a key indicator of herd performance, the use of it as a goal is to be done with caution. Instead it should be used as a monitoring tool, with changes in the value used to assist in decision making processes for the benefit of the productivity of the herd.

Written by Cathy Mirza.

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