By Chris Cassady, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Beef Technical Sales, BioZyme® Inc.
It’s no secret that reproductive success is the most influential factor determining profitability in beef production. If a cow doesn’t produce a live calf, the operator is left holding the bag of her annual production cost without an opportunity for a return. Considering today’s calf prices, weaning a healthy, heavy calf is critical to remain profitable with these straining input costs.
Cattlemen and women cannot control the weather or historic drought events, but they can control their nutritional programs and pay close attention to their herd health. These factors play a huge role in determining whether a female gets bred or remains open after the breeding season.
Luckily, there is a strong relationship between nutrition, health and cattle reproduction. To no surprise, the association can be found within the digestive system.
Defining Reproductive Success
Reproductive success can be defined in several ways. While percentage calf crop or number of calves weaned per cows exposed are simple measures of reproductive success, they don’t necessarily account for when that animal calved within the season.
If you’ve been in the business for a while, you know that earlier calving cows wean heavier calves and typically have a more productive lifespan.
We ask cows and heifers to do extraordinary things post-calving. They are expected to support a calf with an adequate milk supply, repair their uterus, grow (heifers) and get pregnant again within 82 days to meet the goal of calving early the subsequent calving season.
The reproductive system must compete for nutrients; however, it remains the last rung on the ladder of nutrient partitioning. If a cow can’t support herself or her calf, she won’t rebreed, so it’s our job as producers to eliminate all the nutritional and health insults during this critical timepoint.
Digestive Health is Key to Cattle Reproduction
When asked what comes to mind about the importance of a healthy digestive system, typically optimizing feed utilization is the common response. This obviously has a substantial impact on cattle reproduction because the breeding season coincides with peak requirements for energy, protein and minerals.
Science would tell us that if our herd is elevating its plane of nutrition at this timepoint, you should see an improvement in breeding and cattle reproduction. That’s true even if they are a little thin. Getting the most out of our feeds and supplements requires healthy rumen function and proper absorption in the small intestine.
Insults to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as disease, acidosis and stress have huge impacts on feed intake and utilization. If cattle don’t eat consistently, expect more opens at your next preg check.
There are Always Going to be Risks
Feed intake is voluntary, meaning some level of contamination is to be expected with every bite. However, the digestive system is more dynamic than the sole responsibility to break down feeds. It serves as the home for more than 70% of the immune system.
In fact, if you unraveled the GI tract of a cow, the surface area of that gut would be about the size of a tennis court. That’s a lot of area to cover, so healthy epithelial tissues are imperative to serve as a protective barrier to the animal in addition to the site of absorption.
Any time an animal has a leaky gut due to improper barrier function, the door opens for bacteria and other pathogens to enter the bloodstream. This triggers the immune system, and all nutritional resources are partitioned to make it work efficiently.
This survival response combined with massive reductions in feed intake results in pregnancy losses, anestrous and open cows.
Amaferm can Help
Keep the integrity of the GI barrier function by doing your best to maintain a proper pH level with feeding strategies and daily feed additives with AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility.
Ensure the inclusion of Amaferm and give your herd the optimum nutrition they need with VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® products that promote effective, easy breeding when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding.
In addition Amaferm, Concept•Aid contains high levels of vitamin E support reproductive tract repair and milk quality. Find the Concept Aid formula right for your herd at Concept•Aid Calculator.
A Quick Tip for Cattle Gut Health
Often the most vital component of nutrition and health is overlooked more often than it should be – water. Keeping cattle hydrated is crucial year-round, not just during the heat of the summer. The mucosal lining that covers the delicate parts of the gut helps trap harmful bacteria and contaminants and needs sufficient moisture to work properly.
Always provide fresh, clean water, and make sure that your confined cattle have access to at least 3 linear inches of space per animal at the trough. A sufficient, quality water supply is your best friend when it comes to reproductive success and sufficient performance.
Many factors play in achieving reproductive success in beef herds, and some are simply out of our control. Think outside the norm when it comes to nutrition and management of your females.
Developing a healthy digestive system early in a female’s life will not only help them better utilize feeds and supplements but can set them up for fewer health challenges in their lifetime.
Premium genetics require premium nutrition. You can kick the cost can down the road by skimping on nutrition, but don’t be surprised if the bill comes due with higher vet bills and less marketable calves the following years.
BioZyme can Help with Cattle Reproduction
Are you looking to bolster your herd’s reproductive success? Well, that’s where the BioZyme’s family of brands comes in. Check out our Vitaferm Product Catalog to determine the proper products for your herd.
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