Prepare herds to attain optimum conception rates
April 21, 2016
The rains over the weekend have really helped the grass in our area. Many producers have already moved pairs to pasture, while others will allow the grass to mature a bit more. It won't be long until the bulls will enter our herds. We need to prepare our herds so we can attain optimum conception rates in our pastures.
The earlier a calf is born in the calving season, the more it will weigh at weaning time. This is the reason we must get as large a percentage as possible bred on the first heat cycle. There are several management procedures you can utilize to increase your herd's conception rates.
Nutrition of the cow is important to early conception. Research is North Dakota has demonstrated cows maintained on a balanced ration in the feedlot had a 10 percent higher conception rate on first service over pasture bred cows. Your cows are milking at the time of breeding and may be losing weight. If you can supplement cows at breeding, they should cycle more readily. Good quality mineral is important to conception. Recently chelated minerals have improved herd efficiency. Injectable minerals have shown 10 percent increases in conception rates in heifers in our area. They are commonly used in artificial insemination protocols when the cattle are processed through a chute.
If you move to grass for breeding, make sure the pasture has adequate high quality grass. We all have a pasture that repeatedly produces lower conception rates. We blame water quality, toxic weeds etc. but usually don't know the exact answer. The best suggestion is to utilize these pastures during times other than the early breeding season.
Make sure your bull battery is ready for action. Bulls with lameness issues should be marketed and replaced. If bulls have had injuries or been sick, you need to carefully evaluate them before turnout and replace them if needed. The bulls also need to be in good condition at breeding time, but not overly fat. Semen evaluation is important to better understand your bull batter. Sometimes as bulls get older their semen quality decreases. If your old dominate bull has decreased semen quality, he may interfere with other bulls trying to cover the cows. This is also a good reason to remove sick, lame, or injured bulls from the pasture rather than allowing them to recover in the pasture. Yearling bulls are usually unable to cover as many cows as mature bulls. In our area pastures may be small and only one or two bulls may be placed per pasture. We must make sure these bulls pass their semen exam satisfactorily or very few cows in the pasture may be bred.
Vaccination is important for maintaining pregnancies. We never know when virus and other pathogens may enter our herds. If they are properly vaccinated your losses will be minimal. You also need to avoid mixing animals while in pasture. That stray bull which shows up in your pasture may be a Trich carrier and infect your herd. Remember for Trich control it is best to market mature bulls which may be carriers and replace them with virgin bulls. More herds continue to be diagnosed, so you need to be vigilant.
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Your beef herd's first cycle pregnancy rate is very important to your profitability. Early calves are heavier at weaning and produce a consistent package at sale time. Careful attention to detail with cow nutrition, your bull battery, and disease management will greatly benefit your herd. Consult your veterinarian, extension specialist and nutritionalist to develop programs for your herd which will economically improve your herd's efficiency.
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