Cattle

Four Tips for Beef Cattle Calving and Rebreeding Success

Management : Cow & Calf

Management : Replacement

Chad Zehnder, Ph.D.

Field Cattle Consultant

Calving and rebreeding are two sides of a coin; a calf is ultimately the result of a year-round breeding plan for cattle. Simultaneously preparing for beef cattle calving and rebreeding puts you in position to achieve your breeding herd goals:
  • A 365-day calving cycle
  • A tight calving window
  • More and bigger calves
How a heifer or cow calves out will impact how quickly she can be rebred. Speed of rebreeding will impact her ability to stay on a 365-day calving cycle.

Because calving and rebreeding are so intrinsically linked and tied to herd success, this timeframe is vital for herd performance and profitability.

Follow these four tips for beef cattle calving and rebreeding success:

1. Maintain BCS before beef cattle calving season

Cow body condition score (BCS) at calving impacts how quickly a cow returns to heat and helps prepare her for the next calving season. Cows managed for optimal body condition at calving (6 BCS) have shown to rebreed with conception rates of 88 percent or greater.1

You want cows cycling prior to the breeding season so when they come into heat during breeding season, you have a better chance of getting them bred in the first 21 days. Cows bred early in the breeding season result in calves born early in calving season.

Why does it matter if a calf is born early in the season? Calf age has the biggest impact on weaning weight. Calves born in the first 21 days of the season are likely heavier at weaning. Assuming a calf gains between 2.25 and 2.5 pounds per day, every cow heat cycle is worth roughly 50 pounds.

The cow’s body condition score also impacts calf performance. Ideal BCS at calving supports colostrum quality, the cow’s stamina during calving and calf vigor. Aim for a minimum BCS of 5.5 at calving for mature cows; 6 is preferable. The minimum BCS for first-calf heifers is 6. Cattle supplementation can help maintain a consistent body condition score.

2. Evaluate your cattle mineral program

Mineral nutrition is one of the most commonly overlooked items on the preparation list for beef cattle calving and rebreeding. Make sure you’re providing an adequate mineral program year-round versus right at calving or before breeding. Minerals are especially important 60 to 90 days before calving, since they impact colostrum quality, calf trace mineral status and calf health.

Cattle mineral also plays a role in tissue repair, helping the cow’s reproductive tract repair from calving and prepare for breeding. If the tract is not fully repaired, a cow may have challenges being rebred or she may not breed back at all.

Cows must be rebred within 85 days of calving to have one calf per year. Most cattle operations have room for improvement; more than half of cattle operations do not have a defined breeding season. Of operations that have a defined breeding season, more than 60 percent had a breeding season longer than 84 days.2

A quality year-round supplementation program ensures cows have the nutrition they need to thrive, no matter the forages available. A balanced cattle mineral is the best choice leading up to calving season and through breeding.

3. Discuss cattle health with your veterinarian

If you don’t have a comprehensive herd health program, now is the time to talk with your veterinarian or animal health supplier to develop one. If you have a program, it can be beneficial to re-evaluate and ensure the protocols still make sense.

Make sure cow and calf vaccinations are part of your calving and breeding plan for cattle. Since every operation has a different risk level in how and when they calve, the program should be specific to your operation and region.

For operations with multiple employees, make sure everyone is familiar and comfortable with the cattle vaccination program ahead of time. Getting everyone on the same page before beef cattle calving begins can help ensure protocols are followed correctly and consistently.

4. Take time to troubleshoot

Beef cattle calving and rebreeding are two of the most important events for your bottom line. It can be stressful when things don’t go as planned, but overreaction could make things even worse.

Take an objective approach when a challenge arises. Troubleshoot and try to figure out what the true cause is versus making a knee-jerk decision. Involve your nutritionist, veterinarian, suppliers, employees and other key personnel to help identify the cause and potential solutions. A team discussion can help identify the diagnostic work needed to find a solution.

Does your nutrition program stack up? Find out with a Proof Pays feeding trial.

Rasby, R. J., Stalker, A., and Funston, R.N. Body condition scoring beef cows: A tool for managing the nutrition program for beef herds. Retrieved Nov. 2, 2017 from: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec281.pdf
2 2009 National Animal Health Study for Beef Cow-Calf Operations