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Veterinary surgeon

Anna Patch

XLVets practice

Shepton Veterinary


Target-setting drives a

series of improvements

to boost herd fertility


Shepton Vets’ veterinary surgeon Anna Patch has helped dairy farmer

Simon Bendall and herdsman Stephen Cummins to improve their herd’s

fertility by setting them a goal to serve 16 cows each week and have

achieved an average of four pregnancies at each weekly fertility visit.


Manor Farm near Bath is a busy mixed farm

which includes a high yielding dairy herd of

180 cows, averaging 10,200 litres/cow.

The herd is run together as one in the summer

and grazed outdoors, whilst the sheds are

used for arable crops. In the winter, the herd

is split into high and low yielders. They

receive a base TMR ration and are then

topped up in the parlour, according to yield.

Poor fertility, together with a Johne’s culling

policy, has led to a shortage of heifer

replacements coming through. So to improve

supply, the Hereford bull has been temporarily

retired from serving heifers, and sexed semen

is currently being used.

Fertility targets

Twice a year, Anna and her Shepton

colleague Paddy Gordon meet with Steve,

Simon and the farm's nutritionist to discuss

herd performance, health and plans for the

future. ‘Poor fertility has been an issue and

at the end of last year, we all agreed this

year’s aim would be to serve more cows,‘

explains Anna.

To help focus everyone’s minds, Anna drew

up a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

and a whiteboard was installed in one of the

sheds, onto which the results of Anna’s weekly

fertility visits could be recorded, and progress


Anna explains: ‘There are 180 cows in the

herd, and approximately 60 heifers enter the

herd annually. So that means we need to

generate 120 pregnancies in the cows per

year. There will be some pregnancy losses so

the aim is to have four pregnancy diagnosis

(PD) positives each week on my routine visit.

To generate these PD positives we need to be

serving between 12 and 16 cows per week.‘

Better heat expression

Investigations into the reasons behind the

herd’s poor fertility began in earnest towards

the end of last year after a particularly bad

routine fertility visit in which there were too

many PD negatives.

Anna explains: ‘The herd was already being

vaccinated against leptospirosis, IBR and

BVD. From youngstock blood screening and

bulk tank testing, I knew there were no PIs

in the herd – infectious disease was well


Blood samples were taken from dry cows and

fresh cows to check their trace element status.

Results revealed that cows were indeed low

in copper, and also iodine. So in November

2015, every animal in the herd was given

a mineral bolus. Amongst the milking cows,

this led to a slight improvement in heat


Anna PD-ing

Anna and Simon discussing PD results