top of page

15/07/22, 05:00

Milk pregnancy testing transforms breeding for Meath farmer

Patrick Connolly

80 British Fresian cows, Longwood

With kind consent from Agriland IE and Progressive Genetics

For dairy farmers, the breeding season can be stressful, as farmers aim to achieve a calving interval of one calf/cow/year; a 90% submission rate in the first three weeks of the breeding season; a six-week calving rate of 90%; and an empty rate of less than 10% for a 12-week breeding season.

In order to achieve these breeding targets, it is important that empty cows are detected early and inseminated again. If they remain empty, it is important that their reproductive health is investigated.

Traditionally, cows are scanned by a vet to detect if they are pregnant or empty. While this is an effective method of pregnancy detection, it can be costly, take time, and is an invasive method of detection.

Milk pregnancy testing

Milk pregnancy testing is growing in popularity among Irish dairy farmers as a way of determining whether cows are in-calf or not.

It works by detecting PAGs (pregnancy associated glycoproteins) present in the milk which are associated with pregnancy.

Patrick's testimonial

Patrick Connolly is a dairy farmer operating in Longwood, Co. Meath who is farming in partnership with his son, James Connolly, and his wife, Síle.

The family milk 80 British Fresian cows and operate a grass-based, spring-calving system.

When detecting for cows in heat, the Connollys visually assess their herd and inseminate their cows as they come into heat.

Patrick purchases milk pregnancy tests for his herd from Progressive Genetics and completes the tests 30 days post insemination.

Discussing how milk pregnancy testing has improved his herd’s productivity, Patrick said: “Usually, when we’re milk recording the cows, we check after 30 days to see if they’re in-calf.

The Connolly family decided to use milk pregnancy testing as their method of pregnancy testing as it a much simpler way to test cows for pregnancy than scanning cows later in the year.

The test offers the opportunity to check for pregnancy from a milk sample that has been taken at your routine milk recording or through individual post sampling.

Talking about the simplicity and accuracy of the tests, Patrick said: “The milk tests, we find it very easy to use and it’s cost effective. It seems to be working out to be very accurate.” In the video above, Patrick discusses how to do the tests, he said: “To individually sample cows, fill in the form and ensure that the bottles that you’re using match the cow.

“Disinfect the cow, wipe the teats, discard the first milk. Then you take a sample from each quarter at a 45° angle into the bottle. Close the bottle, shake it and send it off to be tested."

Patrick has found that after using milk pregnancy testing, the reproductive health of his herd has improved as he is notified early of any issues and can get his vet to check his cows.

Patrick said: “If we find that cows haven’t gone in-calf using the milk test, we usually get the local veterinary practice, Blackwater Vets, to check any cows that are not cycling and see if there’s anything wrong.”

This allows Patrick to inseminate any empty cows early, or treat any ill cows early, therefore reducing his veterinary costs and helping him achieve a compact calving season.

Patrick Connolly
bottom of page