3 Nutrition Tips to Improve Your Breeding Program
The cattle industry has breeding gold standards 85 days to rebreed, a 60-day calving window and cows in body condition score (BCS) 6, to name a few. But beating the average and holding your operation to a higher standard isn’t just another bullet point on a list of goals; it’s a philosophy with tangible, long-term benefits.
“Above average results mean more dollars in a producer’s pocket,” says Elizabeth Backes, Ph.D. and cattle nutritionist at Purina Animal Nutrition. “More cows bred will translate to more calves born, which means more calves weaned and more pounds to sell. If producers can get more calves on the ground, that’s more dollars in their pocket.”
One way to achieve better-than average breeding results is by focusing on nutrition. Here are three nutrition tips to beat the average:
Mineral as the Foundation
“The foundation of any cattle nutrition program is mineral,” says Backes. “Providing supplements and mineral help maintain a consistent body condition score year round for greater breeding success.”
Cows managed for optimal body condition at calving (6 BCS) rebreed with conception rates of 88 percent or greater. Minerals help repair a cow’s reproductive tract after calving and prepare for breeding. If her tract is not fully repaired, a cow may have challenges being rebred or may not breed back at all.
Additionally, nutrition can impact multiple generations of the herd. Dam nutrition can impact future replacement heifer fertility. At any given time, a productive beef cow is eating for two or three. She is likely bred, carrying a fetus and may still be nursing a calf. The nutrients the calf receives in utero and at side can impact its reproductive abilities.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking your forages will provide all of the minerals your cattle need to thrive,” says Backes. “If you’re not providing a quality mineral year-round, you’re leaving breeding success to chance.”
Record and Monitor
BCS If you don’t collect body condition scores (BCS) regularly, it’s time to start. Collect scores 60 days before calving, at calving/ pre-breeding and at weaning. It’s most important to score 60 days before calving because the condition in which a cow calves impacts how quickly she will return to estrus.
“A good body condition score can decrease the postpartum interval so cows get bred earlier in the breeding season,” says Backes. “Cows bred earlier in the season have calves born early in the calving window, which results in more weight at weaning. And, when a calf gains between 2.25-2.5 pounds per day, every heat cycle is worth about 50 pounds.”
A body condition score of 6 is ideal, and every point matters. Research shows that when cows calve with a body condition score of 6, 98 percent showed estrus by day 40 of the breeding window and 90 percent were confirmed pregnant by day 40.1 The same research showed a drop in BCS to 5 resulted in only 80 percent in estrus and 65 percent confirmed pregnant by day 40. At BCS 4, only 56 percent were in estrus and 43 percent were confirmed pregnant.
Act on BCS, Forage Conditions
Turning valuable BCS data into action is key. Monitor scores regularly so you can adjust nutrition plans in real-time.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on forage quality. When forage quality is less than ideal, consider supplementing before cows start to lose condition. Once cows lose condition, it can be expensive to gain back. A proactive approach to supplementation is best.
“Cattle supplements with intake control properties can provide nutrients to complement your forage and maintain cow body condition through all seasons,” says Backes. “If cows need more nutrients, they’ll consume more supplement. If cows are getting the nutrition they need from forages, they’ll consume less.”
Backes’ biggest takeaway? Never let your cows have a bad day. “Set cows up for success by providing them with quality mineral and protein supplements,” says Backes. “A good, year-round nutrition program supports improved breeding rates.” Visit purinamills.com/breeding to learn more about better-than-average breeding results.