With calving season nearly wrapped up and pairs being turned out to green grass, breeding season will begin before long. In order to maintain a 365 day calving interval, cows need to be rebred within 80 days after calving. Cows that calved at the beginning of the calving season, should have resumed estrous cycles around day 50 postpartum, as observed by showing mounting behavior and mucus discharge from the vulva. These cows are prime candidates to breed again early in this coming breeding season. The later calving cows may not be showing signs of estrus yet, but once uterine involution is complete, they will be ready for breeding season too. The earlier we can get cows bred in the breeding season, the greater their lifetime productivity will be due to less open cow days and also raising older and heavier calves to weaning.
Plan the Breeding Season
Before starting the breeding season, make sure you have a plan in place for what type of breeding program you want to utilize and what supplies are needed for either artificial insemination or natural service. For example, utilizing artificial insemination and estrus synchronization provide many benefits to beef producers by providing the ability to introduce elite genetics into the cow herd for a small price and breed many cows at one time, respectively. The 2018 Beef Cow and Heifer AI Breeding Protocols are available online. However, if AI is not for you, synchronization can be utilized within natural service settings to group cows together for the bulls to breed. For more information on NS protocols and bull to cow ratios, read the Using Estrous Synchronization in Natural-Service Breeding Situations factsheet. In addition, consider how long the breeding season will be. A 60-day breeding season will give cows three opportunities to become bred. Adding an AI or estrus synch program gives them an extra chance, so four opportunities to become bred during the same 60 days. Lastly, keep in the back of your mind to conduct pregnancy checks early after bulls are pulled (45 days) to aid pasture and feed savings as we are going into another dry summer. The earlier preg check can occur, the sooner we can pull open cows off of valuable pasture.
Pay Attention to Young & Old Cows
Consider sorting off any young or old cows that need some supplementation or extra TLC moving from calving to breeding season. Two-year old cows may fall into this category as they have difficulty resuming cyclicity and rebreeding early due to increased nutrient demands of growth and lactation requirements of their first calf at side. Depending on the number of pastures or lots available, running this group of young and old cows separate from the brood cow herd can make management easier through the summer and fall. For example, if it gets dry again, old cows may need to be the first into town, while young cows can be drylotted with cost effective feedstuffs until fall grazing season arrives. Monitor body condition of these young and old cows, prior to breeding season and supplement where necessary to get them to a condition score 5 for best chances of rebreeding. For assistance in body condition scoring cows, view the Basics of Body Condition Scoring (BCS) factsheet.
We are still recovering from last year’s dry summer, therefore, plan to be proactive rather than reactive during this year’s breeding season by stocking pastures appropriately with the best cows and bulls that are assets to the herd. Take the time to evaluate pastures, conduct pre-breeding exams on bulls and know what steps to take to alter stocking densities to fit the limited resources available.
Contact a SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist for more information or assistance with managing the coming breeding season.