Cow/calf breeders produce calves that are then grown and harvested to provide a renewable, healthy, nutritious protein source in the form of beef. Feeding cows and heifers that do not produce a calf each year can severely impact the profitability of these operations. Below are a few tips you can use to improve the reproductive efficiency of your cow herd.
Scientists from Oklahoma State University have reported that by increasing the nutrient intake after calving in first calf heifers, the interval to first estrus can be reduced. The energy requirement for cattle increases during the last 2 months of gestation for both heifers and mature cows. Adjusting herd nutrition to meet requirements provides the best opportunity for success. For more information related to beef cattle nutrition, follow this link to the UF/IFAS Extension Publication “Basic Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cows”, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/AN/AN19000.pdf.
Body Condition Scoring
The most common body condition scoring (BCS) system used in the beef industry involves a scale of 1 to 9 with 1 being thin, 9 being obese and 5 being optimum. Most beef cattle producers tend to raise cattle too thin rather than too fat. Cattle need to be in moderate (BCS 5) body condition at breeding and slightly higher (BCS of 6 to 6.5) at calving so when they go through the process of having a calf and lose condition, they still remain above BCS of 5 at breeding. Research from the University of Florida demonstrates that as cattle decrease from a BCS of 5 to 4, pregnancy is reduced by approximately 30% and from a 4 to a 3 an additional 30%. Knowing the body condition score of your herd is essential when trying to maximize reproduction. For more information on this topic follow this link to the UF/IFAS Extension Publication “How to Measure Body Condition Score in Florida Beef
Many of you have heard this for years, but to some of you this may be new. By having a defined, controlled breeding season, you’ve identified when breeding begins and when it ends. This allows you to focus your effort and time to this important phase of your operation. Identifying an end date for your breeding program will enable you to provide proper nutrition, uniformity in the calf crop, facilitate management (castration, vaccination, etc.) and identify and remove cows and heifers with reproductive issues. For more information on how to convert your herd to a controlled breeding program follow this link to the UF/IFAS Extension Publication “Converting the Beef Cow Herd to a Controlled Breeding Season”, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/AN/AN26700.pdf.
Breeding Soundness Exams
Breeding soundness exams should be conducted by a veterinarian 30 to 60 days prior to breeding and provides a snap-shot of the bulls’ reproductive ability. If a bull fails the exam or receives classification deferred, having this time will allow you to re-test or find another bull before the breeding season begins.
Pregnancy can be evaluated using three commonly used methods: rectal palpation, transrectal ultrasound and blood tests. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these methods; however, knowing the pregnancy status of your herd will allow you to accurately eliminate unproductive cattle from your herd and give you confidence that that cow herd will have the best chance possible to return a profit.
If you would like more information related to beef cattle management, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Agent.