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Reproductive management of dairy herds in New Zealand: attitudes, priorities and constraints perceived by farmers managing seasonal-calving, pasture-based herds in four regions



Reproductive management of dairy herds in New Zealand: attitudes, priorities and constraints perceived by farmers managing seasonal-calving, pasture-based herds in four regions



New Zealand Veterinary Journal 59(1): 28-39



To examine attitudes, priorities, and constraints pertaining to herd reproductive management perceived by farmers managing seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy herds in four regions of New Zealand, and to explore how these varied with demographic and biophysical factors. Key decision makers (KDM) on 133 dairy herds in four dairy regions (Waikato, Taranaki, and north and south Canterbury) were interviewed between May and July 2009. They were asked to provide demographic and biophysical data about the farm, and to rate their attitude in relation to their own personality traits, management issues and priorities, and likely constraints affecting reproductive performance in their herds. Associations between demographic factors and attitudes, priorities and constraints were analysed using univariable and multivariable proportional-odds regression models. Farms in the regions studied in the South Island were larger, had larger herds and more staff than farms in the regions studied in the North Island. The farms in the South Island were more likely to be owned by a corporation, managed by younger people or people who had more education, and the herds were more likely to be fed a higher percentage of supplementary feed. The majority of KDM rated the current genetics, milksolids performance and reproductive performance of their herds as high or very high, and >70% believed that the reproductive performance had remained the same or improved over the preceding 3 years. Despite this, improving reproductive performance was the most highly rated priority for the next 3 years. The constraints considered most likely to have affected reproductive performance in the last 2 years were anoestrous cows, protracted calving periods, and low body condition scores; those considered least likely were artificial breeding and heat detection. Of the variables examined related to attitudes, priorities and likely constraints, there were significant differences between region for 10/40, and with age and occupation of the KDM for 24/40 and 5/40, respectively (p<0.05). The majority of KDM reported the current reproductive performance of their herds to be high or very high, yet rated improving reproductive performance as a very high priority for the next 3 years. Mismatch between perceived and actual performance may result in reduced uptake of extension programmes designed to improve performance, and accurate benchmarking may help increase uptake and engagement. Further work is needed to determine whether the attitudes and perceptions about performance of farmers affect the likelihood of changes in their management behaviour which translate to measurable change in the actual reproductive performance of their herds. The variation in attitude, priorities and perceived constraints among age groups and region indicates that design of extension programmes may need to vary with these demographics.

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Accession: 055509792

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 21328155

DOI: 10.1080/00480169.2011.547167


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