Zero bobby calves?

Bobby calves

We are pretty good at setting goals in NZ- Smoke-Free 2025, Predator Free 2050, Zero Road Deaths. Many of these are aspirational goals and may be impossible to achieve. Zero bobbies may be a similar goal. However, bobby calves are a wasted opportunity in many herds.

The use of sexed semen in conjunction with heifer synchrony provides a lot of opportunities to breed replacements from your top animals whilst increasing the number of beef cross calves born, increasing the average calf sale value in your herd significantly.

Using sexed semen over synchronized heifers allows you to:

  • Rear replacement heifers from your highest BW animals
  • Reduce the number of straws of replacement semen over the herd, allowing increased use of beef straws or extending bull mating period with beef sires
  • Offset the slightly lower conception rate of fresh sexed semen (approx. 3.5% lower than conventional) by manipulating the synchrony date. This means there is less effect on days in milk and calving spread than when sexed semen is used over the herd.

With live export coming to an end next year, there is a risk of the market becoming flooded with dairy beef (e.g. white face calves, Angus cross calves etc).

Many farmers are starting to look at alternative beef sires available through their semen companies such as Wagyu, Belgian Blue, Charolais, Simmental sires etc.

Whilst there can be as much variation in size of progeny within a breed (i.e. easy calving sires may throw significantly smaller calves than the breed average) as there is between breeds, and there is a big potential opportunity here, we strongly advise caution when selecting sires that you have no experience of.

Do your homework with the semen company first. Speak to other farmers who have used some of these sires to learn from their experiences. Try a small number of straws and only breed your biggest framed cows to these new sires in the first season of trialling new options.

Zero bobbies may be an unachievable target but reducing bobbies and increasing calf sale value is a win-win for most farms. Now is a great time to be planning your strategy for next season!

Dr Jason Fayers BVM&S CertCHP (Cattle Health & Productivity)


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.