Tips for Preparing Cows for Breed Back 

breed back

Breed Back

Spring is in the air, and there is no better sight than baby calves running across the hillside with their shiny coats. What we don’t see is what is happening inside that mother cow, a magnificent reproductive machine. She’s doing her best to raise a growthy, vigorous calf. All while preparing her body to breed back for her next calf. 

The Never-Ending Cycle 

Once a female reaches maturity and is bred her first time, her energy requirements are going to shift. From late gestation through post-calving, her nutrient requirements hit their peak. Lactation requires the most energy and nutrients from the cow; followed only by the last 60 days of gestation. Once she breeds back and is in early and mid-gestation, her nutritional needs can fluctuate again. 

Requirements for both energy and protein increase significantly for beef cows after calving. It’s important that producers stay aware of these changing nutrient needs. According to Chris Cassady, Ph.D., Director of Beef Technical Sales for BioZyme® Inc., protein requirements for cows in early lactation reach up to 12%, where they normally don’t exceed 6-8%. 

He suggests that lactation is a great time to supplement the herd with VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® protein tub or meal

“Luckily those added protein requirements typically coincide with spring’s lush pastures. Although protein tubs can help, the extra energy unlocked from Amaferm really helps bridge the energetic gap, too. Especially when some of the washy forages are low in dry matter,” he said. 

BioZyme Can Help! 

AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility is the key additive in all VitaFerm products. Amaferm has more than 111 published and/or presented research studies proving its increase in digestibility and, ultimately, its impact on the animal. 

In addition to energy and protein requirements, the basic vitamin and mineral needs of your cows are vital to not just their overall health but also their reproductive status.  Providing a high-quality trace mineral and vitamin supplementation like VitaFerm Concept•Aid is research-proven to improve reproductive efficiency. For example, our Reproductive Success Report shows that VitaFerm Concept•Aid has proven itself as an industry leader in its ability to improve pregnancy rates, calving percentages and weaning weights.  

Tips for Preparing Cows for Breed Back 

Manage Body Condition Score 

The first step producers should take in preparing for breed back is to evaluate the cow’s body condition score (BCS). Ideally, your cows should have a BCS of at least 5. Anything lower than 5 will cause more reproductive challenges. 

According to Cassady, maintenance requirements for energy and protein increase 25-30% post-calving. If you have some cows with a BCS of 5 or less, you should consider managing them separately. By increasing their energy intake, thinner cows may see a boost in reproductive performance.  

“Thin cows happen to all of us but don’t panic. Research has shown that cattle gaining weight heading into the breeding season have just as good a chance of breeding successfully as their adequately fleshed herd mates. Getting the most out of your forages and supplementing with a quality vitamin and mineral program can give these females the nutritional boost they need to breed successfully,” Cassady said. 

Don’t Overdo It 

Conversely, it is also important to ensure your cows aren’t too heavily conditioned as they approach breeding season. Extreme cases where the BCS is much higher than ideal can ultimately cause dystocia. This leads to lower milk production and even results in open cows. While lighter-weight cows are more likely and more detrimental to your breeding success, overweight cows can also inhibit reproductive success. This can negatively impact their reproductive health and reduce success during breed back.  

Keeping this in mind, the best approach to preparing cows for breeding back is to be proactive about their nutritional needs. Cassady said that maintaining nutrition leading up to the breeding season will promote a more favorable reproductive response. 

“If you can get cows to come into heat sooner and shorten that anestrous period after they calve, your pregnancy rates will actually increase,” Cassady said. “If they come into heat sooner, you will have more opportunities to breed them within your breeding window. Not to mention, when they conceive earlier in the breeding season, you will have heavier calves come weaning time.” 

Pay Attention to Nutrition for First-Time Calvers 

Just like you would manage cows with a lower BCS separately, it is also important to give special consideration to those females who are calving for the first time. They are experiencing their first breed back, raising their first calf and still growing themselves. That’s a lot to expect from a cow.  

“Ideally, you would develop them separately because your heifers are technically not mature until they are around three years of age. They are still growing and maturing and developing themselves all while providing for a calf and hopefully a growing fetus,” Cassady said.

“Providing a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement is vital, especially for those younger females that are still developing. I always feed my heifers Concept•Aid after they are weaned up until they are bred back after their first calf to ensure their needs are met throughout development.” 

Nutrition is Paramount 

As you can see, having a quality nutrition program in place should be of utmost priority to producers. Especially if you want an efficient and effective breed back. At BioZyme, we have developed the VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® line of products to promote effective, easy breeding when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding. 

Regardless of your management style or operation size, there is a Concept•Aid product for you. All Concept•Aid products are powered by AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility.

They also contain organic copper, iodine, and zinc for maximum bioavailability, innate immunity, and hoof health. Additionally, high levels of Vitamin E supports reproductive tract repair and milk quality. 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 help them better utilize feeds and supplements. More than that, though it can set them up for fewer health challenges in their lifetime. Premium genetics require premium nutrition. Sure, 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 in the following years,” Cassady said. 

Invest in Herd Health Management  

In addition to a good nutrition program, producers need to remember that a good vaccination program is a big part of herd health and reproductive efficiency. A good mineral will enhance the effectiveness of your vaccination program in your cows, keeping them in good health. 

Work with your local veterinarian to develop a herd health program to protect your cows against reproductive diseases such as lepto, BVD, vibrio, trich, etc. 

Implement a reproductive health management program for postpartum cows, including regular estrus detection, breeding soundness evaluations, and reproductive health monitoring. Work closely with a veterinarian to identify and address any reproductive issues or concerns promptly.  

Maintain optimal herd health and disease prevention practices to minimize the risk of reproductive disorders, infections or diseases that could impact fertility and rebreeding success. Implement vaccination, biosecurity and parasite control programs as recommended by a veterinarian. 

Consider Estrus Synchronization  

Consider using estrus synchronization protocols to optimize breeding efficiency and shorten the calving interval in your herd. Estrus synchronization can help ensure that cows are cycling and receptive to breeding at the desired time. This facilitates timely rebreeding and reducing the time open between calvings. 

Synchronizing the herd can make breed back more efficient, help tighten the calving window and allows for a more uniform set of calves. 

Don’t Forget About Bull Management 

Although the cow is going through a lot prior to breed back – raising a calf and preparing for breeding – don’t forget the other side of the equation. Make sure your bull is ready for breeding. Evaluate the fertility and breeding readiness of herd bulls to ensure successful mating and conception.  

Work with your veterinarian to conduct breeding soundness evaluations (BSE) on bulls before the breeding season to assess their reproductive health, semen quality and breeding potential. Conduct the BSE 30-60 days prior to turnout, regardless of your bull’s age, to confirm if your bull has the ability to cover cows and get them bred. 

Research has shown that bulls with scores greater than 71 have a dramatically higher conception rate than those scoring 70 or less. When compared to the cost of using a sterile or substandard bull, the money you invest in BSE is well spent. 

Promoting exercise can also contribute to reproductive success. Position feed and water sources to encourage movement and improve an animal’s physical fitness. 

Provide protection from extreme environmental elements. You should protect bulls from severe cold and heat prior to turning out as these factors can impact semen production and quality. Providing bedding during winter and spring storms will also protect the scrotum from frostbite.  

Let VitaFerm Help with your Breed Backs 

Are you ready to add VitaFerm to your mineral program? We hope so! Not only, will VitaFerm help with easy, effective breeding, it will also increase digestibility, helping keep your entire herd healthier.  

Not sure what product is right for your operation? Refer to the Concept•Aid Product Navigator to help you discover the product best for you. 

Are you looking for a handy gestation calculator to help you determine the right time to breed back your cows based on when you want to calve? We’ve got you covered there too! Check out our automated Gestation Calculator

Looking to buy the VitaFerm products locally? Find a local dealer here.  

If you’re not seeing a dealer in your area but still want to support local businesses, consider referring a dealer.  

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