March births by dairy dam highest on record

Published 13 May 19

The latest data from BCMS shows:

  • Q1 overall is up 2% on the year
  • Births to a dairy dam in March are the highest on record
  • Cows in good physical condition when served

During the first three months of this year, births to a dairy dam totalled 363,000 head, according to BCMS. While this is a 2% increase compared to last year, last spring was particularly challenging. The bad weather led to a higher on-farm mortality rate which took its toll on birth rates. 

With GB milk supplies already running at records highs this year, more cows at the peak of lactation in the flush will compound the pressure on processors. 

The majority of the uplift comes from March only, with births to a dairy dam reaching 137,000 head, 3% higher than the five-year average and the most calves registered in them month of March since the records began (2003).

Monthly calf registrations

Why are March calvings so high?

The bad weather during the spring kept cows indoors longer than usual. However in May-June, grass growth picked up and cows were turned onto pasture. Though the drought had already begun in June, the impact on grass growth was not fully realised until July-August time.

Therefore it is likely that cows were in good physical condition when they came into season, which would have aided fertility and conception rates.

The increase in March births may also be a sign of conversions from all year round systems to spring block. It may also be a sign that spring block herds are tightening their calving window

Our Optimal Dairy Systems work can help provide the tools to make a conscious decision about the best, and most profitable production system for your business.

Will this continue?

During the height of the drought, producers used more bought-in feeds to compensate for the lack of available forage. Keeping cows on a higher level of feeding can increase their fertility. However the high temperatures are likely to have resulted in heat stress, which could have been detrimental to fertility.

We expect to see how these two factors come to impact fertility and conception rates in births to dairy dam data from April onwards.