Tips for Calving and Fall Breeding in the Suckler Herd


The suckler farms calving in the fall have now calved well and in most cases attention has begun to turn to breeding.

Regardless of the calving system in place (spring/summer or fall calving), rearing is a critical period for any suckler business.

Dominic Mason, Beef and Sheep Adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises (CAFRE), recently described what determines reproductive efficiency in the suckler cow.

He said three factors are critical to the reproductive efficiency of suckler cows:

  • The interval between calving and the return to normal heat;
  • Effectiveness of heat detection – especially when artificial insemination (AI) is used;
  • Overall design rate per service.

For the breeding season to be a success this fall, Mason said there are “a lot of things that need to be right and in order.”

“These parameters need to be monitored to ensure that the suckler cow returns to normal heats, in order to keep the calving interval of that cow and the whole herd at an acceptable level for your business. [is important],” he said.

On average, the time between calving and the first heat in suckler cows is more than 50 days. Many factors can influence this period for better or worse, but ultimately suckler breeders should aim to have a cow calving every 365 days if possible.

The body condition score (BCS) at calving is a factor that will influence calving success and a rapid return to heat.

At calving, cows must be fit and not fat, because cows that are too fat or very thin can cause calving difficulties and therefore a delayed return to normal heat.

Farmers should regularly assess cows according to the BCS, in order to have them in the Optimal BCS of 3-3.5 and making sure to separate the fat cows from the lean cows as they will have different dietary needs.

“Depending on the breed and adult weight, 1 BCS could be in the range of 75 kg live weight,” Mason explained.

Mineral food

Mason said the mineral feed calved cows should stay at the rate they received before calving, throughout the breeding season.

In most cases, 150g/head/day of a quality powdered mineral is suggested, depending on the supplier’s guidelines. Mineral feed will have a positive effect in reducing cases of retained placenta and will improve the vigor of calves and also help cows to show stronger heat signs.

Feeding cows calving in autumn

The Cattle and Sheep Adviser to CAFRE emphasized that post-calving nutrition is of paramount importance, particularly for first calf heifers, older cows and cows with multiple births, as maintenance, Growth and milk production will be different for everyone.

“The silage needs to be analyzed and the results used appropriately. The silage produced throughout 2022 is of variable quality and cows calving in the fall need quality silage,” he said.

“Aim to feed these cows 70 D-value silage whenever possible on an ad-lib basis. When this quality of silage is not available, discuss this further with your nutritionist and supplement with concentrates on the back of your silage test results.

“Supplementation depending on silage analysis could be in the range of 1kg to 3kg/head/day until the end of the breeding season to maximize conception rates.

“If silage supplies are tight, feeding 1 kg of concentrate can potentially replace 3-5 kg ​​of silage depending on quality and overall dry matter (DM%).

“Failure to provide quality feed at this stage could have detrimental effects, not only on the percentage of pregnant cows at scan, but also on calf performance and overall weight at weaning.”

Heat detection

Regarding heat detection, Mason said the concept of restricted breastfeeding during a period between the mother and the calf twice a day can accelerate the onset of heat and reduce the days of mating.

If you practice this, try to start after the cows have calved about 30 days and continue for about three weeks.

Adviser CAFRE said it is suggested that around 85% of these cows will show signs of heat within two to three weeks of first separation.

He pointed out that conception rates in the region of 60-70% are “more than possible” for suckler cows in both natural breeding and AI, but said that semen quality, the AI ​​technique and bull fertility are all important.

AI tips

Mason said farmers should ensure semen tanks are regularly topped up with liquid nitrogen and avoid excessive handling to prevent damage to straws.

Be confident in your AI skills, he said, but you feel unable to do the job at hand, hire an expert technician to perform the procedure.

Finally, prior to calving season, in preparation for breeding, it may be beneficial to have your local veterinarian perform health and semen checks on the bull in your herd to assess his ability to mate and breed. design.

Scanning cows calving in autumn

Pregnancy diagnosis can be made effectively from 40 days after the last mating or insemination, so good record keeping is essential.

This should be something everyone does on the farm, regardless of calving time.

Once cows have been diagnosed as pregnant, aim to keep cows on a stable diet without major changes in order to maintain gestation.

However, if a pregnancy has not been successful, CAFRE’s cattle and sheep adviser said farmers can then decide if another intervention is needed, such as synchronizing heats to allow the cow to conceive and stay in her current breeding window with an acceptable calving interval. .


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