Cattle

The Recipe for a Perfect Cattle Breeding Program

Management : Cow & Calf

Nutrition : Minerals

Nutrition : Supplements

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Although a perfect cattle breeding program doesn’t exist, it’s fun to imagine.

Patrick Gunn, Ph.D., and beef technical sales consultant, Ron Scott, Ph.D., and beef cattle research director, and Doug Hawkins, Ph.D., and technical support specialist describe what a perfect cattle breeding program looks like to them:

Patrick Gunn: To me, a perfect cattle breeding program means a 95% pregnancy rate, a 45-day breeding window and most calves born during the first 21 days of the calving season. Those targets are great indicators of profitability.

Ron Scott: I’d expect cows in the “perfect cattlebreeding program” to have access to a high-quality, year-round cattle nutrition program that meets changing forage conditions. Signs of a high-quality cattle nutrition program at work include:Close-up of angus cows eats hay out of hay ring. Cows would have access to additional forages and/or feedstuffs, including stockpiled forage, hay, or a mixed ration like silage when pastures are limited.

Doug Hawkins: A perfect cattle breeding program would look different to every producer, depending on his or her passions, goals, resources and environment. That’s the beauty of the cattle industry; there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there are two things I’d look for:
  • Heifers separated from the cow herd. In an ideal program, you’d breed heifers 45 days before the cow herd. You would synchronize heifers and A.I. them to a low birth weight bull with genetic merit. Caring for heifers separately allows you to assist them during calving season and meet their high nutrition needs.
  • A 60-day breeding season or shorter. Tightening the breeding window helps to tighten your calving season and allows you to wean and market a group of calves together. Ultimately, that saves you valuable time and resources.

What are the key ingredients for your perfect cattle breeding program?

Patrick Gunn: There’s no silver bullet; however, environment and management heavily influence cow fertility. Implement sound management practices and create a consistent environment year-round. A quality cattle nutrition program complements environment and management and optimizes cow fertility and performance. 

Ron Scott: Cow fertility is a year-round process that doesn’t happen overnight. Monitor body condition score throughout the year so you can adjust before it’s too late. Remember that body condition score is the fuel gauge for cow fertility and conception.

Doug Hawkins: Don’t overstock, purchase the best bulls you can and provide a year-round, self-fed supplementation program to meet a cow’s changing nutritional requirements. Remember that your time is valuable.

Strive for breeding perfection with help from a high-quality cattle nutrition program. Find out if your cattle nutrition program stacks up with a Proof Pays feeding trial.