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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
104 0437

Makin momma cows: Part 2 of 4

Have you ever been out in a pasture looking at cows and after asking "How old is she?" you hear "She is a '08 model." I believe that is why I think of heifer development as "manufacturing" mother cows. Just like the pickup you drive, the quality and dependability is based on the manufacturer. As cattlemen we are responsible for designing and manufacturing replacement heifers.

When it comes to designing the animal health portion of your heifer development program, you should always consult with your local veterinarian. That is first and foremost. Your veterinarian will have the best knowledge of your herd and what needs to be incorporated into your vaccination program.

Properly carrying out the health program your vet designs is the cattlemen's job as the manufacturer. It is likely that your health and vaccination program will start before or at the time of weaning. It is important to start your health and vaccination plan early, and follow through with subsequent vaccinations at pre-breeding, preg-check, and pre-calving.

Pre-breeding (1-2 months before breeding) is an important time to have the vet out. Not only is this a good time to focus on vaccinating for diseases that cause reproductive losses, but it is also recommended that you have a pre-breeding examination performed on the heifers. A pre-breeding exam consists of weighing and body condition scoring the heifer (want them to be at 55% of mature body weight), Pelvic measuring (want 150 cm² or greater), getting a reproductive tract score (this helps determine amount of heifers cycling; you want >50% RTS 4 & 5), and visual appraisal for conformation and structural soundness. Performing this pre-breeding exam can help identify problems and management changes needed before breeding.

I will talk about "Breeding replacement heifers" in a blog to follow.

Preg-checking is another crucial step in making momma cows. You should perform your preg-check prior to 120 days gestation. Some technologies like blood-based preg-check can provide you with accurate results as early as 28 days post-breeding. Determining due-dates helps producers know when to pay extra attention and help out if needed.

A health and vaccination program is a key part of transitioning a heifer into a productive brood cow. Develop a good relationship with your veterinarian and consult with them frequently on your program.

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