While you may just be starting calving season, now is the time to start thinking about breeding season. "Sixty to 90 days prior to the breeding season is a critical time to focus on herd health and cow nutrition strategies that can boost cowherd reproduction," says Carole Hicks Brannen, University of Georgia Extension beef specialist. "It is important to pay particularly close attention to replacement heifers."
Start by evaluating the herd's nutritional status. "One good tool to utilize is body condition scoring (BCS). BCS is an excellent indication of whether cows are receiving proper nutrition to begin cycling and are ready to be bred. Proper body condition helps females maintain their health during pregnancy and better manage stresses associated with calving and lactation," says Brannen.
First calf heifers should be bred 30 to 45 days ahead of breeding mature cows. At this time heifers should be at a BCS of 6 and cows should be at a 5. To learn more on body condition scoring, follow this link.
It is important that heifers have reached at least 65% of their mature weight before breeding," says Brannen. One way to get this figure is to use the formula below:
- Estimated mature weight = ( Frame Score x 75 ) + 800
- Weight at Breeding = Estimated mature weight x .65
Another important factor to a successful breeding season is a good overall herd health program, she says.. This program should include controlling internal and external parasites and preventing diseases that could affect cow body condition and cause reproductive losses that could be detrimental to the breeding program. Females should be vaccinated 30 to 60 days prior to breeding for a variety of diseases, including bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVD). infectious bovine rhinotraecheitis (IBR), vibryosis, and leptospirosis.
Producers should consult with a veterinarian to develop a herd health plan that fits their specific environment and individual operation.
If good management practices are followed, the breeding season will go much smoother and be more successful. Cows and heifers in good body condition and overall health will be more likely to breed successfully allowing for a greater percentage calf crop and therefore more profit for the producer.
Frame score is computed by referencing the animal's hip height to their age using the table below.
For questions or comments, e-mail the editor at Beef Today.