Management techniques mean more successful breeding season

May 11, 2004

With the spring beef cattle breeding season getting under way, producers should remember that some key management practices can result in a successful season.

This is the time when the size of next year's calf crop will be determined, along with the beef operation's potential profitability.

Nutrition, bull soundness and overall herd health can have a major impact on breeding success.

Cattle should be in good body condition and should be grazing on some of the best pasture on the farm during this time.

Pastures containing clover are preferred, along with those containing orchard grass or low-endophyte fescue. High-endophyte fescue can cause lower pregnancy rates. High body temperatures associated with grazing high-endophyte fescue adds stress on a cow and the resulting pregnancy rate.


Producers should pay extra attention to first-calf heifers to ensure they are in good condition for rebreeding.

The cow herd also should be properly vaccinated and in good body condition prior to the breeding season.

Bulls should have a breeding soundness evaluation by a veterinarian to ensure they are physically sound and fertile. Often, producers think they need to check only young bulls, but all should be checked annually.

It is recommended that producers use a short breeding season that allows cattle to be bred before hot weather becomes consistent. Stress associated with higher outdoor temperatures can contribute to reduced pregnancy rates.

Research conducted at the University of Kentucky has shown that, by late June, cattle have elevated body temperatures reducing the chances of a successful breeding. Once the maximum average temperature reaches 90 degrees, there is less breeding success.

The biggest thing is to get them pregnant before they have to deal with heat stress.

Proper management can have a dramatic impact on calving rates, and each additional calf improves the overall economics of the operation. Additionally, if cattle are bred early in the season, a larger calf is ready to market at weaning time.

Boring and ugly?

"When I was a child," said the young man to his date, "my mom always used to say to me that if I made an ugly face it would stay that way."

"Well," said the bored girl, "one thing is for sure, you certainly can't say you weren't warned."

For more information, contact the Boyle County Extension Service.

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