Vet’s voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Get those cows ready for spring |

Vet’s voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Get those cows ready for spring

The weather has been great for November. The fall tillage work is done except for baling corn husks with too much moisture. We don’t have that problem most years. As we pregnancy check our cows, it’s time to plan your calving. There are several management procedures that help make calving easier and more efficient:


• It is much easier to manage animals and groups of animals if we can recognize them and place them on action lists.


• Examine teeth and remove older cows. Many producers remove cows over seven years of age, but in our area we thrive on the older cows.

Body condition scoring

• Most cows need to be in body condition of 5.5 at calving while heifers should be 6. You can add condition now if needed before calving.


• Now that we have had a hard frost we can deworm and be assured we will have little reinfestation before spring.


• Lice are becoming resistant to our pour ons. For best results we now recommend pouring twice. Once early and later in the winter to get the rehatch.


In our area we calve in modified confinement. That means pathogens are always present and threatening the new born. Cow vaccination boosts the cow’s colostrum quality and helps the calf fight pathogens. If two doses are required, you can incorporate the second pour-on with the booster.

Reproduction efficiency is the major economic driver of herd efficiency. We often are only concerned with open cows. These are important, but there are other factors which are very critical to your operation. The number of cows and heifers that conceive the first 21 days after bull turnout or synchronized A are very economically important. We all understand the AI calf is worth extra dollars because of the superior sires used, but bull breeds from the first cycle are also important. When cows conceive early they bring home a heavier calf at weaning and also are more likely to conceive early the next year. We all remember the old day adage, once late, always late.

This summer our ultra-sounding and fetal aging revealed some alarming statistics. Timed AI breeding of heifers was 52 percent. The expected average is 67 percent. We are 15 precent below average. There are many possibilities for this; heifer fertility, nutrition, environment, technician, etc. I asked clients and technicians from other neighboring areas and most herds were at about that 50 percent. The best in our area was an 80 percent AI conception rate on heifers. The record show that the cows didn’t fare any better. Bulls didn’t improve the numbers. First cycle conception on bull breeds was also on the lower 50 percent. We hope for 65 percent conception rate on first cycle with bulls. North Dakota data demonstrates 70 percent plus on cows maintained in confinement rather than pasture.

Take your records for the last few years and disregard the few which calved early. Count the calves born in the first 21 days and count the total cows exposed and you can approximate some numbers for your herd. You can also compute the success rate of your AI programs from these numbers.

We are attempting to build “Bench Marks” for our area. If you have data you would like to share or questions, contact me at 605-491-2868 or All entries will be kept confidential and only group averages will be published, but you can see how your herd compares to others.

Reproductive efficiency is very important to your herd. Small changes in management and nutrition can help you increase your conception rates. Consult your veterinarian, nutritionist and extension specialist to highlight improvements in your management plan. Careful implementation will improve your herd’s efficiency while increasing the financial returns of your herd.