A cows condition at calving is the single most important trait determining when a cow resumes heat cycles and when she is likely to re-conceive for the next calf crop. After the calf is born, nutrient requirements rise dramatically to meet the demand of milk production. However, it is also very important to avoid condition loss between calving and the breeding season to maintain excellent re-breeding performance.
A two-year Oklahoma State University study says:
"Seventy-five cows in year 1 and seventy cows in year two were randomly allotted to LOSE body condition from calving (beginning February 11) until mid April or MAINTAIN body condition during the same time frame. Cows were exposed to fertile bulls for 90 days each year starting May 1. Pregnancy rate was determined at 70 days after the breeding season. Cows that were fed to maintain body condition from calving until the beginning of the breeding season averaged 94% pregnant, while those that calved in similar body condition but lost nearly one full condition score were 73% re-bred. The body condition that was maintained throughout late pregnancy until calving time must be maintained until re-breeding to accomplish high re-breeding rates."
1. Feed tests are the first tool we recommend cattle producers to utilize when estimating a feed’s nutritional value. Once nutrient levels are known, ration-balancing programs can be used to balance diets to meet nutrient requirements. (We can help you with this!)
2. Body Condition Scoring (BCS) can help producers’ determine if a cow’s nutritional needs are being met. The most common BCS system is to numerically score the cows from 1 (thinnest) to 9 (fattest), with a moderate score of 5 being the most desirable at calving. We have guides in the office if you'd like to know more about BCS.
3. It is a myth that under-nourishment of a cow results in a smaller calf and easier calving. Adequate nutrition to the pregnant cow will improve the nutritional status of the growing fetus inside the cow. This will lead to a strong calf that will have good vigor so that it stands quickly and suckles colostrum soon after birth. Cow nutrition after calving will also affect the amount and quality of milk produced, further influencing calf health and performance.
4. Evaluate your cattle mineral program; mineral nutrition is one of the most commonly overlooked items on the preparation list for beef cattle calving and re-breeding. Make sure you’re providing an adequate mineral program year-round versus right at calving or before breeding. Minerals are especially important 60 to 90 days before calving, since they impact colostrum quality, calf trace mineral status and calf health. A quality year-round supplementation program ensures cows have the nutrition they need to thrive, no matter the forages available. A balanced cattle mineral is the best choice leading up to calving season and through breeding. The key minerals that play roles in reproduction are phosphorus (P), copper (Cu), iodine (I), and manganese (Mn). A P deficiency will result in impaired reproduction. Phosphorus requirements change based on the size, stage of production and milk production of the cows, and is addressed in relation to calcium. We have several different GREAT options for mineral programs at R&J; 722 Grass Maximizer which is a 13X13 Chelated mineral with added forage enzymes and Comax (also available with BioMoss 722B, 727 Range Mineral which is an 11X7 Chelated mineral to be used when cattle aren't consuming enough 13X13 mineral (also available with BioMos 732, Celemanax 737 and Hi-Mag & BioMos 711). Along with other minerals with different additives! All of our minerals are formulated by the R&J team for OUR AREA!
5. And lastly; Nutrition! A 1200 lb cow that has a peak milk production of 20 lbs per day needs a diet that contains 58.7% TDN (total digestible nutrients). This can be achieved with a good quality grass hay or green pasture. This cow would also need a diet that contains 10.2% crude protein, which could also be achieved with a number of the products we stock at R&J: Liquid feed in wheel tank at 32% protein, 10% fat, Comax and a full vitamin & mineral package (as pictured above), Roughage Extender products; available in several different mineral and protein levels (it's a 250# tub in a 50# bag!) or Crystalyx Tubs which come in 4 different mineral programs and protein levels ranging from 12-40% protein. Along with adding other feed stuffs and pelleted feeds such as distillers, cake & silage.
Basically, nutrition plays a large role in determining whether or not the cow will become pregnant again. Money invested in improving cow nutritional status NOW will pay for itself in terms of improved cow pregnancy rates and calf weaning weights this coming fall!