April 25, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

As the spring breeding season for the state's beef industry approaches, producers need to take a few simple steps to ensure success.

By mid May, beef producers will begin the breeding season with their cattle herds. Before doing so, their bulls need to have a breeding soundness evaluation (BSE) by a veterinarian to see that they are in satisfactory condition and still fertile, said Roy Burris, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service beef specialist.

"Most people think that is really only something that needs to be done with young bulls but it is something that should be done annually," he said.

Although there's not a lot of time left, the cattle should be in good body condition. So nutrition needs to be maintained or improved. Also, between calving and rebreeding is a good time to work cattle, giving them the necessary vaccinations.

Another factor that can impact pregnancy is the pasture the cattle graze during the breeding season.

"Hopefully, they will be turned out on the best pasture during the breeding season," Burris said.

Pastures containing clover are preferred along with those containing orchardgrass or low-endophyte fescue. High endophyte fescue can cause lower pregnancy rates. Higher body temperatures associated with grazing high endophyte fescue adds to the stress on a cow and the resulting reduced pregnancy rate.

Burris also recommends producers consider a short breeding season that allows the cattle to be bred before hot weather becomes consistent. Higher outdoor temperatures can also contribute to reduced pregnancy rates.

"Our research has shown that usually by the time you get to late June it warms up considerably and you see elevated body temperatures," he said. "My recommendation is that you try to get the cattle bred early in the breeding season to avoid the hot temperatures."

Research indicates that once the maximum average temperature reaches 90 degrees, there is little breeding success. In order to combat that, have them in good condition, expose them early to fertile bulls and get them so pregnancy occurs and they usually maintain the pregnancy, Burris said.

"The biggest thing is to get them pregnant before they have to deal with heat stress," he said.

For every extra calf you get, it makes a difference economically, Burris said. He also noted that if they are bred early in the season, a larger calf is ready to market at weaning time.

"If they are 20 days older that's 40 to 50 pounds heavier and that's money in the bank," he said.


Roy Burris, (270) 365-7541