Optimize Your Cattle Breeding Program with Three Nutrition Tips

Management : Cow & Calf

Management : Replacement

Nutrition : Minerals

Nutrition : Supplements

Nutrition : Forage

Elizabeth Backes-Belew, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Beef Technical Solutions

The cattle industry has breeding gold standards — 85 days to rebreed, a 60-day calving window and cows in body condition score 6. But beating the average and holding your operation to a higher standard isn’t just another goal; it’s a philosophy with tangible, long-term benefits.

Focusing on nutrition is one way to achieve better-than-average breeding results.

Above average results mean more cows bred, more calves born, more calves weaned and more pounds to sell. Bottom line: More calves on the ground equals more potential dollars in your pocket.

Here are three nutrition tips to beat the average and optimize your cattle breeding program:

1. Make mineral the foundation of your cattle nutrition program.

The foundation of any cattle nutrition program is mineral. Providing cattle mineral supplements helps maintain a consistent body condition score (BCS) year-round for greater breeding success.

Minerals repair the reproductive tract

Cows managed for optimal body condition score at calving (6 BCS) rebreed with conception rates of 88 percent or greater.1 Cattle minerals help repair a cow’s reproductive tract after calving and prepare for breeding. If her tract is not fully repaired, a cow may have challenges being rebred or may not breed back at all.

Nutrition impacts multiple generations

Additionally, cattle nutrition can impact multiple generations of the herd. Dam nutrition can impact future replacement heifer fertility. At any given time, a productive beef cow is eating for two or three. She is likely bred, carrying a fetus and may still be nursing a calf. The nutrients the calf receives in utero and at side can impact its reproductive abilities.

Remember: Don’t make the mistake of thinking your forages will provide all the minerals your cattle need to thrive. If you’re not providing a year-round cattle mineral, you’re leaving breeding success to chance.

2. Routinely record and monitor body condition score.

If you don’t body condition score regularly, it’s time to start.

When to collect body condition scores

Collect scores 60 days before calving, at calving/pre-breeding and at weaning. It’s most important to body condition score 60 days before calving because the condition in which a cow calves impacts how quickly she will return to estrus.

Why a good body condition score matters

A good body condition score can decrease the postpartum interval so cows get bred earlier in the cattle breeding season. Cows bred earlier in the season have calves born early in the calving window, which results in more weight at weaning. Plus, when a calf gains between 2.25-2.5 pounds per day, every heat cycle is worth about 50 pounds.Chart showcasing how a difference in body condition score at calving can impact percent of cattle in estrus by day 40 and percent pregnant by day 40; body condition scores 6, 5 and 4 showed 98, 80 and 56 percent in estrus by day 40 respectively, and 90, 65 and 43 percent percent pregnant by day 40

A body condition score of 6 is ideal, and every point matters. Refer to the chart to see how a single point change in BCS impacts return to estrus and confirmed pregnancies.

3. Act on body condition score and forage conditions.

Turning valuable body condition score data into action is key. Monitor scores regularly so you can adjust cattle nutrition plans in real-time.

Proactively monitor forage to prevent a low body condition score

Don’t forget to keep an eye on forage quality. When forage quality is less than ideal, consider supplementing before cows start to lose condition. Once cows lose condition, it can be expensive to gain back. A proactive approach to supplementation is best.

Complement forage with cattle supplements

Cattle supplements with intake control properties can provide nutrients to complement your forage and maintain a cow’s body condition score through all seasons. If cows need more nutrients, they’ll consume more cattle supplements; if cows are getting the nutrition they need from forages, they’ll consume less.

Never let your cows have a bad day.

Set cows up for success by providing them with quality cattle mineral and protein supplements. A good, year-round cattle nutrition program supports improved breeding rates.

Try Purina® cattle mineral today through the Proof Pays feeding trial.
1 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: