If a heifer doesn’t breed the first time, producers should take all factors into consideration before trying again

After spending nearly two years, or more, developing a replacement heifer, producers always hope to see success during the first breeding cycle, but what if she doesn’t breed? Should you give her another chance?

“The old saying, ‘Cheat me once shame on you, cheat me twice shame on me,’ comes to mind or at least it was something like that,” University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Agent Johnny Gunsaulis said.

Many producers, especially those who are new to the livestock business, are not sure whether to give females another chance to breed if she missed the last breeding cycle. Or should first-time heifers be allowed two cycles?

“More of them will do this if they have both a spring and fall breeding season,” Gunsaulis said. “On rare occasions it might be justified, but most of the time, if the female was under the same management as all the others, had the same bull exposure, etc., but didn’t breed, she likely needs to be labeled as either lower in fertility or being a harder-doer than the rest of the herd, so why should she get another chance?”

In addition, heifers need to be in good body condition, having adequate nutrition, exposed to known fertile bulls that are also in good shape, exposed to enough bulls to adequately cover the herd in the breeding season, and under a good preventive health program which includes parasite control.

“If you haven’t done the management on the herd to allow all the females to have an adequate chance at conception, then maybe it isn’t their fault,” Gunsaulis said. “Still yet, giving second chances allows animals to stay in the herd that are possibly less fertile, or less suited to the management system of the herd.”

Another factor to consider is if there is an established breeding season for females. A defined breeding season gives producers a breeding date window and keeps calves born in a timely manner.

“I remember an article from Burke Teichert that placed a lot of selection criteria on heifers that conceived early in the breeding season,” Gunsaulis said. “His take on it was those that breed early and calve early the first time will tend to stay in the herd longer than those that either breed later in the season or don’t breed at all. Again this assumes that you have an actual 60- to 90-day calving window and animals are culled for low production.”

For those who opt to keep a low or non-producing animal in their herd, they should keep in mind that the animal is costing them money each day, and not earning their keep.

“If you’re just keeping cattle around the place because you like the way they look and they help keep the grass eaten down, then sure, let her ride, but if there are financial expectations on the herd, it should be remembered that calf crop percent is the single most important factor in profitability in a cow herd,” Gunsaulis said.


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