May 5, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

With the spring beef cattle breeding season getting under way, producers should remember that some key management practices can result in a successful season.

This is the time when the size of next year’s calf crop will be determined, along with the beef operation’s potential profitability.

Nutrition, bull soundness and overall herd health can have a major impact on breeding success.

Cattle should be in good body condition and should be grazing on some of the best pasture on the farm during this time, said Roy Burris, beef specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Pastures containing clover are preferred, along with those containing orchardgrass or low-endophyte fescue. High-endophyte fescue can cause lower pregnancy rates. High body temperatures associated with grazing high-endophyte fescue adds stress on a cow and the resulting pregnancy rate. Producers should pay extra attention to first-calf heifers to ensure they are in good condition for rebreeding.

The cow herd should also be properly vaccinated and in good body condition prior to the breeding season.

Bulls should have a breeding soundness evaluation by a veterinarian to ensure they are physically sound and fertile, he said. Often, producers think they need to check only young bulls but all bulls should be checked annually.

Burris also recommends producers use a short breeding season that allows cattle to be bred before hot weather becomes consistent. Stress associated with higher outdoor temperatures can contribute to reduced pregnancy rates.

Research conducted at UK has shown that by late June cattle have elevated body temperatures reducing the chances of a successful breeding. Once the maximum average temperature reaches 90 degrees, there is less breeding success.

“The biggest thing is to get them pregnant before they have to deal with heat stress,” Burris said.

Proper management can have a dramatic impact on calving rates, and each additional calf improves the overall economics of the operation. Additionally, if cattle are bred early in the season, a larger calf is ready to market at weaning time.

For more information on beef cattle production contact a county office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Roy Burris, 270-365-7541 ext. 208