Implementation of compact calving at the farm level: A qualitative analysis of farmers operating pasture-based dairy systems in Ireland
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CitationM. Mulkerrins, M. Beecher, C.G. McAloon, Á. Macken-Walsh, Implementation of compact calving at the farm level: A qualitative analysis of farmers operating pasture-based dairy systems in Ireland, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 105, Issue 7, 2022, Pages 5822-5835, ISSN 0022-0302, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2021-21320.
AbstractPasture-based dairy systems aim to maximize the proportion of grazed pasture in the cow's diet by having a compact calving season that coincides with the onset of the grass growing season. In Ireland, where pasture-based systems are dominant, a key performance indicator that reflects the degree of compact calving is referred to as 6-wk calving rate (6-wk CR). Although the industry target is 90%, the national average 6-wk CR in Ireland is currently 67%. The aim of this study was to use qualitative research to understand in depth farmers' experiences in implementing a high 6-wk CR. Ten case-study dairy farmers were interviewed using the biographical narrative interpretive method. We identified 5 broad and often interrelated themes evoked by farmers regarding 6-wk CR: the “good” farmer; support networks; free time and family time; simplicity of a structured system; and profitability and monetary gain. The findings of this study identify complexities and challenges at farm level when it comes to increasing 6-wk CR, such as increased workload and challenges associated with large numbers of male calves born during a condensed calving season. Benefits experienced by farmers as a result of increasing 6-wk CR included increased days in milk and consequently improved cash flow as well as increased grass utilization. Our findings are of interest to researchers and extension agents involved in programs concerned with reproductive management in pasture-based dairy systems.
FunderDairy Research Ireland
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