At a time when producers are watching every dollar tightly, one thing that can’t be taken for granted is reproductive efficiency of the cow herd. With record-low cattle numbers and back-to-back drought years in much of the country, every calf is valuable, and even a single delay in breeding could cost big money.
According to Joe Campbell, Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., producers can see a big difference in the value of calves from the first breeding cycle versus the second or third. As an example, assuming an average daily gain of 1.75 pounds and a value of $1.70 per pound, producers could see a loss of around $63 per calf for every cycle that the cow isn’t bred.
"In a 100-cow herd, if you see a 30 percent open rate for the first cycle, that’s nearly $1,900 in loss," Dr. Campbell says. "We need to focus on breeding efficiency, and we need to do it now. Especially with prices being what they are, there’s a substantial economic return that we can gain."
Vaccination is first line of defense
One of the first steps producers should take to help reduce breeding delays is administering pre-breeding vaccinations to protect against common reproductive diseases. Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), trichomoniasis and leptospirosis can cause delayed breeding, potential abortion, smaller calves and/or persistently infected (PI) calves. The production and financial losses associated with each of these devastating diseases, however, can be reduced through a good vaccination program.
"The economics are there, indicating that we should use good nutrition and pre-breeding vaccinations to make sure the cow is at her peak reproductive performance when we first turn the bull in," says Dr. Campbell.