With regards to the reproductive rate of cattle, as a ruminant farmer or an intending ruminant farmer, you need to be well aware of the reproductive rate of any ruminant animal you would like to go into as this will guide and enable you understand exactly what you are actually venturing into and how long it is going to take you before you can get back your return on investment.
I always advice farmers never to invest or venture into any kind of Agribusiness simply because they see their neighbors or friends doing it and they are turning out well, please understand that your expectations and the persons own are not the same.
Therefore always carry out a detailed research study of any form of agribusiness investment you wish to embark upon to know if it is something you would be willing to do before venturing into them.
Cows are usually pregnant for nine months (for example: Has the gestation period of 9months) and they usually give birth to one calf at a time, this means that a normal cow should deliver a calf once a year.
However, there are rare occasions when a cow delivers twins. Now when they deliver twins, it is sure that one will be male and the other female.
The female will however be sterile for live because it has female reproductive features externally but internally they are those of a male.
Dairy and beef producers should strive to increase reproductive efficiency as a key driver of economic efficiency in the sector.
Reproductive efficiency, or “pregnancy rate,” is defined as the proportion of cows eligible to be bred that become pregnant during an estrous cycle (or approximately 21 days), and which determines the calving to conception interval at the end of the voluntary waiting period.
As pregnancy rate increases in dairy herds, the calving to conception interval decreases, and the herd status becomes, on average, less “days in milk” (DIM).
This has the effect of increasing the potential amount of milk produced per day of herd lifetime, because yield classically declines at 0.3% per day after peak lactation production.
A major and realistic goal of every beef cow/calf operator should be to raise or market 85 calves per 100 cows every year. Greater reproductive efficiency also reduces the number of cows culled for reproductive failure; collectively, these changes increase herd income.
Reproductive performance in both beef cow/calf and dairy operations can be improved by the following:
1) Properly identifying and managing animals to carry out reproductive programs;
2) Keeping records that enable determination of important herd indices, such as percent calf crop, pregnancy rate, length of calving season, culling rates, calf morbidity and mortality, breeding efficiency of bulls, and performance and production information;
3) Meeting the nutritional requirements of various classes of livestock in the herd, emphasizing nutritional needs and cost efficiencies;
4) Establishing a breeding program for heifer replacements and cows;
5) Practicing sire selection and reproductive management;
6) Adopting a vaccination/immunization program for the cow/calf herd, bulls, and calves;
7) Evaluating reproductive failure and abortions;
8) Providing adequate facilities; and
9) Ensuring that the calf is well cared for at birth and receives adequate colostrum.
The Reproductive Rate of Cattle
The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System data suggests:
- 19.5 percent of operations take advantage of semen evaluation
- 18 percent palpate for pregnancies
- 14.3 percent body condition score
- 7.9 percent use estrus synchronization
- 7.6 percent use artificial insemination (A.I.)
Here are three ways to improve your herd’s reproductive efficiency:
1. Detect heats in Cattle and other animals and make smart decisions
“Many technologies on the market today are simple to use and effective,” says Ky Pohler, assistant professor of beef cattle production at Texas A&M University. “One example is a breeding indicator, a self-adhesive patch many producers use primarily for heat detection.”
Breeding indicators are applied halfway between the hip and tailhead of a cow’s back. As estrus activity and mounting occurs, the indicator’s surface ink is rubbed off by the friction of the mounting to reveal an indicator color. Once a certain amount of color is exposed, the animal is considered in standing heat and ready to breed.
“Some breeding indicators have easy-to-read bullseyes on them,” says Pohler. “Once the bullseye, or the equivalent surface area, is rubbed off the animal – that animal is ready to breed and is up to three times more likely to result in a confirmed pregnancy.”
The chance of a successful pregnancy is lower when an indicator isn’t fully activated. With that information, you or your A.I. technician can make smart cow-side decisions, like choosing an inexpensive straw of semen.
If an indicator is fully activated, that cow has a higher chance for a successful pregnancy, and you might use more expensive semen or sexed semen. You might even put in an embryo.
2. Diagnose pregnancies
“The majority of beef females in the United States never undergo a pregnancy diagnosis,” says Pohler. “Herds that don’t use pregnancy diagnosis are taking a gamble.
The wait-and-see strategy can be a costly one if a cow isn’t pregnant and is consuming feed and resources for the duration of her thought-to-be pregnancy.”
Confirming pregnancy allows you to make an informed decision about a cow’s future in the herd. A cow confirmed pregnant might move into a group of pregnant cows which are managed differently.
A non-pregnant cow detected early in the breeding season might transition to another round of breeding or she may leave the herd altogether.
Breeding indicators can also be used as a pregnancy diagnosis tool. If a cow is cycling but doesn’t come back in heat, which would be visually apparent based on her breeding indicator, then the cow is most likely pregnant.
“The value of a pregnancy diagnosis can’t be understated,” says Pohler. “It has the power to significantly increase reproductive efficiency.”
3. Get management basics right
For reproductive efficiency, you’ve got to have your basics covered. Using technology is not a replacement for other overlooked management areas. Including technology without addressing management will still cause inefficiency.
“If you’re going to use a reproductive technology, but your cows are in poor body condition, you can’t overcome that,” says Pohler. “If nutrition is bad, no technology will give you the results you desire.”
Animal health is another management aspect that needs focus.
“It sounds simple, but vaccination plans, disease management protocols and biosecurity need to be adopted and practiced,” says Pohler. “If you don’t have these in place, you might end up with only a 50 percent calf crop due to mid- to late-term abortions or other disease-related issues, a huge loss that could have been avoided.”
The Bigger Reproductive Efficiency Picture
If you want to improve reproductive efficiency, you’ve got to think about it more than one or two times per year during breeding and calving seasons.
“Reproductive efficiency improves when you have a bigger-picture focus, preparing animals year-round for breeding, calving, breeding back and repeating the cycle,” says Pohler. “Ultimately, you have to find technologies and management practices that work for you.”
Breeding Program for Heifer Replacements and Cows
If a cow is to calve consistently, she must deliver her first calf early. Puberty is a function of breed, age, and weight. Beef heifers that are bred at 13–15 months and calve at 22–24 months have two advantages: they get closer attention from herds people by calving before the main herd starts to calve, and subsequently they have the extra time needed to rebreed with the mature cow herd.
For heifers to breed at 14 months, they should have attained at least 65%–75% of their projected mature weight; therefore, adequate nutrition is of major importance. The breeding season for virgin beef heifers should start 3 weeks before that of the main cow herd.
The above considerations do not apply to dairy cattle, which calve throughout the year; however, scheduling heifer calvings at the start of a seasonal calving dairy herd such as in New Zealand or Ireland represents an opportunity to “reset” the calving pattern.
Lifetime profit of dairy replacement heifers is maximized when heifers calve at 23–25 months of age. Thus, to maintain genetic progress and maximize profitability, heifer breeding strategies on dairy operations should include artificial insemination (AI) that results in attainment of pregnancy to allow calving at ~24 months of age.
To compensate for the greater attrition rate usually seen with virgin heifers, a greater number should be bred than is needed to maintain or increase herd numbers, eg, 150%.
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