From Autumn 2021 the Red Tractor Dairy Scheme will see new requirements for breeding management on dairy farms, which aims to ensure the industry delivers in its commitment to rear all calves with care.
As part of the GB Dairy Calf Strategy, Red Tractor will require every assured producer to have a written breeding policy, including semen usage/breeding management decisions.
“Many dairy farms already do this for daily management, and it is often a requirement from the milk buyer. However, it does illustrate the increasing focus on breeding practices from farm assurance,” explains Stuart Boothman, Managing Director at Cogent.
Farms will need to show policy for the management of calves, including provision for rearing facilities, markets for breed of calf, and a plan for TB breakdown.
“These new requirements are driven by the need to demonstrate that all calves are treated equally, and breeding policy is therefore key in determining what calves you have and the resources you need to manage them,” explains Mr Boothman.
“Obviously, there are many elements to calf management such as calving pattern, infrastructure, labour, calf buyer/contract rearer etc., and reliable forecasting is increasingly necessary.
“It is now widely accepted that inclusion of sexed semen in your herd’s breeding policy reduces the unknowns and allows better planning to be achieved. In fact, sales of sexed dairy semen accounted for over half of dairy semen sales in the year to March 2020, jumping up from a 32% share the previous year. At the same time, there has been an increase in the proportion of beef semen sales, now up to nearly 48% (AHDB),” adds Stuart. “The technology is now used with confidence, with successful results on the majority of farms in the UK.
“There’s no doubt, the issue of bull calves has also been a driving force behind the uptake of sexed semen and, as new standards and expectations are introduced to dairy herd management, it is expected this will continue to increase.
“It’s important to continue looking to new technologies that benefit every aspect of dairy herd management. But we must also consider the consumer expectations in future decisions and adopt new policies that promote our work and standards. This will result in not only a more sustainable industry but also improve our image as a world class dairy sector.,” he concludes.