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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
105 0526

Make your breeding season a winning one

If not for the start of baseball season, I am not sure that I would believe it is spring. Obviously, Mother Nature has fallen in love with the curveball. Despite the uncertainty of the weather, it is clear that to be in the cattle business cows have to breed. Simple as it sounds, it is not so easily executed.

Reproductive success or failure hinges on numerous factors, but the biggest factor is likely nutrition. The easiest, cheapest way to know if cows are receiving good nutrition is to evaluate their Body Condition Score (BCS). Cows in good condition will be in scores 5, 6, and 7. Research has shown that cows in good condition will breed earlier and are less likely to be open. The difference in a 4 and 6 score cow is 17% more pregnant in a 60 day season.

With the drought and late winter weather, it is not uncommon to find some of your cows thinner than usual. What if you have thinner cows? Get them gaining weight. It is proven that if thin cows are gaining weight during the breeding season they will have good pregnancy rates. Many heifers are not thin, but overdeveloped. If you try to lean up fat heifers during breeding your rates will be poor. Cows and heifers should be gaining weight to see good pregnancy rates.

So you have nodded your head through the first three paragraphs, but still aren't sure why your pregnancy rates are down. Some other factors that need evaluating: cow size, dry matter intake, hauling times, and time of vaccination.

Genetic trends show cows are bigger and heavier milking now. Thus, they require more nutrients and more dry matter (DM). Spring grass is lush, wet (20-25%DM), and may not meet cow requirements. A 1400 lb. cow needs to eat 120 to 150 lbs. of fescue grass to meet requirement. This is unlikely.

When hauling cows during breeding it is best to haul them 1-4 days after breeding or wait until 45 days post breeding. Embryo implantation is occurring which is sensitive to stress events. Other stress could occur from heat, new feedstuffs (moved to pasture for first time), or immune stress of vaccinations.

Reproduction is a sensitive mechanism. Minimize and eliminate stressors during breeding season. Ensure cows are gaining a little weight even if it requires supplementing. Applying some planning and management to your herd can ensure you hit a home run getting cows bred.

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