Implementing breeding strategies can improve profits
An efficient and consistent reproductive herd puts money in a producer’s pocketbook. The skyrocketing costs of running a cattle operation, forces producers to dig deep for more ways to tighten expenses. Implementing strategies to optimize breeding season may help with a producer’s bottom line.
Improving Conception Rates
Livestock specialists point to body condition as one of the most important factors to improve conception rates. Proper body score of the female and of the bull if utilizing natural service, are critical.
It may seem basic, but experts stress not to overlook the importance of females needing good body condition to be reproductively sound. Producers should check to make sure their females received adequate nutrition through winter, especially as the herd moves into spring breeding season. “They will not cycle if there is not enough energy and nutrition for the body to be able to conceive,” Jenna Monnig, Field Specialist in Livestock at the University of Missouri Extension, said.
Now is the time to give those animals a nutritional boost if they need it, in order to bring them up to a better body condition prior to breeding. “If they have calves on them currently, they could do a bit of an early wean and pull the calves off of them, that will get the cows cycling a little earlier,” Monnig added.
Additionally, the implementation of an estrus synchronization protocol will facilitate bringing those females into heat. The protocol can be executed with AI or a natural service bull. If using a herd sire for natural cover, a breeding soundness exam (BSE) will assess whether he is healthy and viable for the task.
Tightening the Calving Window
Livestock specialists recommend estrus synchronization as a method to tighten an operation’s calving window. Putting the females through an estrus synchronization protocol will bring the majority of animals into heat on or close to the same day. This allows producers to get the females bred in a condensed time frame, thus shortening the calving window.
Utilizing an estrus synchronization protocol can be beneficial in pulling some of the late calvers back in with the main herd. But inevitably, most producers will have a female or so that fails to breed as timely as her counterparts. In those cases, experts recommend the female be culled from the herd.
If a herd’s calving dates stretch over a longer time period it could take several years to achieve the shortened calving window through estrus synchronization. But over time, producers will be able to achieve their goal. For an operation that already has a calving season of 60 to 90 days, an estrus synchronization protocol could shrink that calving window quickly.
Estrus Synchronization Protocols
Different estrus synchronization protocols give producers a chance to choose what works best for their operation. Estrus synchronization can be utilized with AI or natural cover. Livestock specialists say the estrus synchronization protocol works well for producers who want to do a timed insemination.
Estrus synchronization can be effective in shrinking the calving window for an operation that pasture exposes all its females to a herd sire. “You could definitely use it with a natural service, but at that point you don’t want them all to come in heat at the same time, because that’s too much work for your bull,” Monnig explained.
In that situation, the females are synchronized over several days so they come into heat over a five-to-seven-day period. This way they are still somewhat grouped together. “It would just be a different protocol so that it is spread out a bit and the bull can do his work,” Monnig added.
In the case of using a natural cover bull, Monnig recommends using a protocol that minimizes the number of times an animal needs to come through the chute for a shot. “If you are doing natural service, I would say give them a single shot of prostaglandin and then that will tighten them up in that five-to-seven-day window, so it would just be one trip through the chute and then natural cover after that,” Monnig said.