6 Tips to Prepare Your Herd for Breeding Season

(Bridget Beavers)

Focus on BCS. Body condition at calving time determines to a great extent the length of the anestrous period and therefore the likelihood that the cow becomes pregnant in timely fashion for the next calf crop, says Glenn Selk. If the cow is in a lower body condition score at calving, she will have fewer, if any, opportunities to conceive in a 60-day breeding season. Body condition change after calving can have an impact on the return to heat cycles, but usually cannot compensate for low body condition at calving. Read more about BCS here.

Make sure vaccinations are up to date. Implementing a sound pre-breeding vaccination program can enhance the cow's ability to become pregnant on time and carry a healthy calf to term, says Dr. Curt Vlietstra, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim. These vaccinations include:

  • Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) - The most commonly diagnosed viral cause of abortions in cattle.
  • Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) - Known to cause early embryonic death, abortion and persistently infected (PI) calves.
  • Leptospirosis - Bacterial infection linked to infertility, abortions, weak calves and reduced milk production.
  • Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) - Respiratory disease that can cause serious illness and even death among calves.
  • Parainfluenza 3 (PI3) - Respiratory disease associated with bovine respiratory disease (BRD) that may result in secondary respiratory infections such as bacterial pneumonia.
  • Clostridia - Successful treatment of clostridial bacteria is rare, but prevention through vaccination is effective.

Find more on this here.

Get your bull checked out. A bull can look and act like he’s primed to produce offspring, but the question is can he deliver? Data show that 1 of every 5 bulls tested can’t and will fail a breeding soundness exam, according to the Society of Theriogenology. That’s why a thorough breeding soundness examination prior to the start of the breeding season – along with frequent monitoring of health, soundness of feet and legs, and continued desire and ability of bulls to mate throughout the breeding season – are critically important in order to ensure a bull’s high reproductive success. Want to know more about BSE exams? Check out our free on-demand webinar here.

Plan out your breeding season. A shorter breeding and calving season can equal more money in your pocket. Well-defined 60-day breeding and calving seasons will pay off in heavier, and more uniform groups of calves to sell at marketing time, says Glenn Selk. If a small cow operation can market a sizeable number of calves together in one lot, it will realize a greater price per pound (on the average) than similar calves sold in singles or small lots. Read more about price differentials producers receive with uniform calf crops here.

Inventory your supplies. Prior to the breeding season, take stock of your current inventory needed for the breeding season. This is especially important for those using A.I. Inventory includes supplies needed, such as CIDRs, vaccinations, AI injectables (GnRH and PGF), and semen. Herd inventory is also crucial to a successful breeding season. Determining which cows you will cull and which you will keep, do you need to purchase another bull, or do you need to improve your herd genetically. Assessing inventory early will enable you to be better prepared for the breeding season.

Make sure A.I. is done properly (if applicable). There’s no bull about it, artificial insemination (A.I.) has come a long way since its first use in dairy cattle during the late 1930s. While the technology has vastly changed, the basic principles still remain. From careful semen handling, and proper use of the breeding gun, if not done right cows can come up open. For a refresher on best practices, check out these 5 tips from Karen Johnson, an Extension educator at the University of Minnesota.


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