The choice of breeding season is an important one.
Each farm operates differently, so each breeding season will be different. Many farmers and ranchers will opt for a spring breeding season. There are many benefits to breeding cattle in the spring – read on to see if spring is the season for your herd.
“Spring breeding usually starts in early April,” explained Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri-Extension. One of the benefits of breeding your cows in the spring is that the pasture growth will provide excellent nutrition for your females at a time when good groceries are crucial.
“April and May breeding should see pasture in a very nutritious stage of growth,” noted Cole.
Be prepared to possibly supplement your cows with grain or another food source, depending on the quality of your fields. A forage test with the help of your local Extension center can help you determine exactly what extras your herd may or may not need.
Another plus to breeding your cows in the spring is cooler temperatures.
“The temperature should be relatively low thus avoiding heat stress, often brought on later in the year by fescue toxicity,” said Cole.
Lack of heat stress can lead to fewer open cows and cows who hold their condition better during pregnancy.
When you breed in the spring, your calves will be hitting the ground in January and February. There are both pros and cons to this.
“The down side is cold and snowy calving may lead to more death loss, frozen ears, tails and even hooves,” said Cole. “The good side is the cows will hit good pasture when the calf is big enough to benefit from the extra milk. The calves will be ready to wean and perhaps market ahead of big runs in the fall.”
While it might make for a little extra preparation, Cole told Ozarks Farm and Neighbor. “I feel the pluses of a better conception/pregnancy rate outweigh the cold concerns. You do need to be prepared for cold weather if you calve in January and early February.”
To prepare your heifers and cows for spring breeding, Carol Sanders, with the University of Arkansas Extension, has said heifers should be in good condition before breeding. If they are too thin, especially after a hard winter, they are less likely to reach puberty or become pregnant. Separate heifers from mature cows. Heifers cannot compete with mature cows at the feed bunk or for the better quality forage in the pasture. She also noted to vaccinate heifers for IBR-BVD-P13, PRSV, vibriosis, leptospirosis and blackleg 7-way 30 to 60 days before breeding.
Be sure to keep good records throughout your spring breeding season so you can continue to improve your breeding program year after year.
Spring breeding pros:
• Weather favorable for calving
• Cows usually dry during summer forage slump
• Cows calve in excellent body condition
• Cows cycle back quickly after calving
• Avoid breeding during hottest part of the year
• Calves marketed during year’s highest prices