When your newborn calves arrive this spring, remember that your cows will put their reproductive abilities on hold while they recover from their pregnancy and build up energy reserves in preparation for their next breeding cycle.
Once a cow calves, her lactation demands increase her energy requirements by 20-30%.
If she’s in poor condition and her newborn calf is suckling, it could take months for her to rebreed. Thin cows at calving (BCS 4 or thinner) also tend to produce less colostrum, giving birth to calves that are slower to stand and have lower immunoglobulin levels, thus impairing their ability to overcome early disease challenges.
To help your cows breed back and address calf health
, it is important to target mature cows to calve at a BCS of 6. A major influence of rebreeding performance of your cows is their body condition when they calve
, especially for spring-calving females.
If cows are thin at calving, evaluate your pre-calving feeding program. It is both difficult and expensive to get cows to optimal condition due to the nutritional demands of lactation after calving. The period from weaning to about 90 days before calving is the best time to pay close attention to BCS and your nutrition program. A month and a half (about 45 days) after weaning, cows should be picking up condition with good matching of cows to feed management strategies, including evaluating the quality and quantity of their feed resources. Forage supplementation may be needed to help cows recover. At three months prior to calving, it becomes harder to add condition economically, and a program providing adequate nutrition
to maintain cows in good condition at calving will be increasingly important.
Body condition scoring your cows at these key times is an important driver when developing your management strategies to provide a high plane of nutrition that will positively affect cows returning to estrus on schedule, decrease days to conception, and foster successful calving/breeding seasons in the future.
Ultimately, playing catch-up often means it’s too late, but it’s never too late to evaluate your pre-calving nutrition to make sure that your cows are set up for rebreeding success next calving season.
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