Feeding Cattle for Fertility
A cow that doesn't produce a calf each year is a profit drainer rather than a profit gainer for any cow-calf operation. In an ideal world, each cow in your herd will be pregnant for 285 days and then breed back within 80 days, giving you a calf every year (within every 12 months). To accomplish this feat, your cow needs to be at the top of her nutritional game.
Optimizing Body Condition
The key to optimum fertility is keeping brood cows in a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5 to 6. BCS can fluctuate based upon forage quality and specific nutritional demands of the cow. "Nutrient demand is greatest during the critical 120 days, 30 days prior to calving and 90 days post calving," explains Mike Peacock, Southern States Beef Sales Manager. "Fetal demand pre-calving, milk production and conditioning for re-breeding post calving creates great nutritional demands on the cow during this period resulting in energy and protein requirements increasing by 40-50%."
Should your cow's ration not meet her increased protein and energy requirements she will have a loss of BCS, resulting in delayed breeding and lower milk production. If it takes longer than 80 days to breed her back, she will not produce one calf per year. Note of caution, bigger doesn't mean better when it comes to BCS. Fat cows with a BCS score of 7 or higher are generally slow breeders and may become non-breeders as their added weight causes leg and structural problems.
Feeding for Optimum Fertility
Proper BCS can only be maintained through a balanced nutrition program. High quality forage is the backbone of any good nutrition program. However, supplementation is required to make sure your cows get all the necessary vitamins, minerals, energy and protein they need.
To determine what type of supplementation your herd requires you will first need to get your forage tested. Test results will determine how much a cow can eat, as well as how much energy, protein and minerals are supplied. You can then select a supplement that most efficiently fills the nutrition gap.
Supplements can be given in a variety of forms, including hand fed, free choice tubs, liquids, pressed blocks, and more. "Higher quality forage will require the least amount of supplementation, thus often allowing one to use pressed blocks or 'tubs' to meet needs with minimal labor," suggests Peacock. "Lesser quality forage requires a greater volume of supplement and most often will require some form of hand fed supplement."
Optimum fertility comes from optimum body condition. Fueling your brood cows with high quality forage and supplementation will not only increase your herd calving rate, but also benefit your bottom line. Not sure what supplementation is appropriate for your herd? We can help! Visit your local Southern States store to discuss the best options for your cows.