• Cynthia Northcote

Celebrating High Pregnancy Rates with Organics


A 2.5% empty rate is a welcome result for Phillip Barrett after dealing with huge reproductive loss in a system that just wasn’t working for him.

Phillip’s coastal Taranaki farm is BioGro certified and has been farmed organically for 10 years. Prior to conversion to organics Phillip was experiencing significant reproductive loss. Inductions and CIDRs were standard practice, with up to 40% of the herd needing intervention to cycle. High urea use underpinned a higher stocking rate and Phillip described it as a ‘system heading downwards'.

A major shift in philosophy has now revolutionised the way Phillip farms. Prevention is the main focus and every aspect of the whole farm system is considered. Phillip acknowledges the value of monitoring and making intelligent decisions based on sound science. Analysing the mineral profile and supporting the animal’s immune function with the correct mineral balance is vitally important.

Pat and Phillip discussing management choices for cow condition in late summer.

A 2.5% empty rate is a terrific result in any farming system. Attention to the following factors is helping to drive his reproductive success:

  • Making confident decisions by being better informed through continuing education.

  • Optimising per animal performance through reducing stocking rate from 2.9SU/ ha to 2.55SU/ha.

  • Improving feed conversion efficiency through offering more feed and minimising weight fluctuations.

  • Improving conception rates through improving the number of cows calving in first 3 weeks, and increasing the number and fertility of pre-mating heats. In 2012, 31% of cows calved in first 3 weeks, increasing to 58% of cows calved in first 3 weeks in 2014.

  • Maintaining the increased fertility through hybrid vigour in a 3 way cross of Friesian x Ayrshire x Jersey with A2A2 bulls. Presently mating is 6 weeks AB with frozen semen, followed by 9 weeks with Ayrshire bulls.

  • Reducing stress around summer dry feed management through high quality feed crops. Phillip is growing Lucerne for silage and a turnip/sunflower/chicory crop which is break-fed.

  • Reducing the stress of winter feed deficit through winter feed crops, if a shortage of winter stored feed is identified. Phillip uses a rye corn/clover mix for break feeding over winter then harvesting a hay crop followed by under sowing Japanese millet or chicory in December.

  • Improving return on investment by growing young stock better to achieve good in-calf rates.

  • Making heat detection easy for staff. This is achieved by updating the tail paint regularly and working with Mineral Systems to get the mineral balance right so the cows show strong oestrus behaviour.

Cow health and production continues to improve supported by the establishment of strong mixed species pastures. Tree fodder also provides a dietary choice for the cows to nibble at along fence lines and races. Phillip mulches seaweed and comfrey to provide a tonic to the cows and for fertiliser. He is further looking to lower fertiliser costs and improve soil health through a worm composting operation which will recycle his own farm’s green waste.

Phillip believes he is ‘half-way’ to achieving the full potential of the land. He is heartened by the response of his soils and pastures and resulting cow performance. Most importantly, he is enjoying farming more.

Phillip Barrett on his coastal Taranaki farm

If you’d like to achieve similar results but are unsure what to do next, call us for a chat on 0800 765 854.

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