Even short blasts of frigid weather can impact timely reproduction
Short and long blasts of frigid weather can create a chilling effect on a cow’s estrus. The stress of severe cold can temporarily freeze a female’s cycle.
“When we get in the extreme cold it will shut cows out of estrus,” Bruce Peverley, Nowata and Craig County Extension Educator with Oklahoma State University, said.
Fortunately, when the temperature improves the cow returns to her normal cycle. However, even if the cold spell lasts for a short period of time, it can impact conception rates and timely reproduction.
Managing Around the Weather
If producers suspect this is the case for their herd, there are some management practices that can reduce the impact. Livestock specialists recommend taking a look at the history of frigid cold spells in the area to determine if it is consistent.
Instead of extending the breeding season, producers may want to consider shortening it to avoid the times when severe weather historically hits. Another management strategy would be to keep the same breeding period and length, but start earlier in the fall.
Livestock specialists recommend an ideal breeding season of 60 days. Although, for some operations 75 days may be a more workable time frame. Implementing strategies to circumvent the nasty weather will have a positive effect on conception rates.
Shorter Breeding Season Benefits
A shorter breeding season helps eliminate the need for females to come into estrus during possible extreme weather conditions, and it also brings additional benefits. For instance, the earlier a calf is born in the calving season, the heavier it is going to be at weaning. “As we can group calves up and take away the tailenders, actually we will be increasing those weaning weights just because those calves have more age to them,” Peverley explained.
A shorter breeding season will also place the spotlight on females that are the last in the herd to get bred. “With the economics of inputs, those cows that don’t want to be mothers and fit into that cycle; we probably can’t afford to own,” Peverley explained. “Because if a calf gains 2 pounds a day or more, the calf that is born in the last 30 days of the calving season could be 60 pounds lighter than his mates.”
Another way tightening up the breeding season can make producers more efficient is in how producers feed the herd. The nutritional requirements for cattle vary depending on their stage of production.
A lactating cow has increased nutritional requirements over a female in the last third of her pregnancy. If fields are mixed with animals in both stages of production, then it is difficult for producers to determine how to much feed the group. “The more they are spread out, the more we are either overfeeding or underfeeding part of the group,” Peverley said.
Due to the rising cost of grain, feed, fuel and fertilizer, producers must watch their inputs closely. The more producers can be efficient with their feeding, the more they can save on inputs. Regardless of whether the decision to implement a shorter breeding season is weather related, many cattle operations could benefit from the management practice.