Beef farmers in Wales are missing out by an average of £4,000 a year just by failing to follow the most efficient calving cycle for their herd, according to the industry development agency, Hybu Cig Cymru.
It seems the average age of heifers at first calving is 35 months in Wales - 11 months greater than recommended by industry experts.
Calving at the recognised 24 months could yield another two calves per cow per lifetime for an average 25-strong Welsh herd - resulting in an average annual income increase of £162 per cow.
“The age at first calving has major implications for the lifetime production of a breeding suckler cow,” says Gwawr Parry, HCC’s industry development officer.
“It is recommended that the age for heifers to first calve is 24 months, with the delay usually due to the fear of calving immature, undersized heifers. But with the right management, heifers can and should be run with a bull at 14 months.
“The latest British Cattle Movement Service data shows that the average calves per lifetime are currently 5.4, with an average calving interval of 432 days. The optimum interval is 365 days.
“As well as the age at first calving, the calving spread has a huge impact on calving interval, with fixed calving periods aiding significantly in hitting that elusive 365 days.
“Anything that does not calve within the allotted period should be culled.
“It is also important to consider how the cow is managed after calving and optimum weight or body condition scores are crucial.
“This is a win-win situation because the benefits of calving younger include an increased number of calves per lifetime, overall considerable financial gain and at the same time, addressing climate change issues by improved on-farm efficiencies, thus achieving the greatest yield per hectare.”