According to the calendar, spring is here and you have your calf crop on the ground and are thinking maybe you should be going over the farm equipment before spring planting starts. Something else you should be thinking about is getting ready for breeding season so that you have a new calf crop for next year. Some planning now on your part can go along way to making next year’s calf crop successful.
The first thing I like to consider is the body condition of the cow herd. Thin cows do not get bred on time, so make sure the cows are in good body condition. If your cows came out of winter a little rough and thin, some form of supplemental energy will be necessary to put some weight on those cows and get the cows to cycle on a regular basis. Combining this with the best quality forage you have available can make a huge difference in fertility.
The next decision is whether you plan to use artificial insemination as all or part of your breeding program. The reason you need to decide this early is that commonly people use some kind of synchronization program to breed groups of cows or heifers in order to narrow the calving season and conserve time and resources. There are multiple programs to synchronize heifers and cows. Most use combinations of prostaglandin, GnRH, and progestins (such as MGA or CIDR’s) to group females to cycle in a short period of time. The number of variations in synch programs is sometimes confusing, and timing is critical for success of a synchronization program. Your veterinarian is the best source for determining the best program for your needs.
If you plan to use natural service rather than AI for your breeding program, bulls need a good checkup before breeding season. First and foremost is a full breeding soundness exam, performed by your veterinarian. It should include semen collection and evaluation, visual evaluation of the penis and testicles for abnormalities, a general physical exam, examination of the bull’s feet for problems and body condition scoring. Another important consideration is testing for Trichomoniasis. Data we have collected over the last 6-8 years indicates that 10-15 percent of bulls do not pass fertility exams. If bulls have not been tested, get them checked immediately. The number one reason I see for poor semen quality is poor body condition.
Pre-breeding vaccinations are also important to control diseases that rob calves through decreased fertility and abortions. Common recommendations for vaccines include lepto, IBR and BVD. Campylobacter (still referred to as Vibrio) should be used in herds where bulls are used. Vaccines should be administered approximately 30 days prior to the start of breeding season.
A little planning can make next year’s calf crop the best it can be. Getting cows bred early in the calving season and having the shortest possible calving season will lead to a bigger payday when those calves are sold.
Dr. Mike Bloss, DVM, owns and operate Countryside Animal Clinic with his wife, Kristin Bloss, DVM. The mixed animal practice is located in Aurora, Mo.