They say that you never recover from a bad first impression, and the same goes for beef cattle reproduction. Beef heifers that don’t breed successfully during their first breeding cycle are often unsuccessful on their second and subsequent breeding cycles and, in many cases, are culled from the herd.
A successful first and second heifer breeding starts with nutrition. Heifers are born with most of the ovarian follicles they will have for a lifetime, so the beef cow nutrition the heifer’s mother received through gestation is vital and can impact the performance of your herd for generations to come.
- Sort and Feed Heifers by Weight: Research shows that heifers have higher pregnancy rates when they are sorted by weight and fed appropriately to achieve an ideal body condition score (BCS). When heifers are fed together, the heavier heifers receive more nutrition than the lighter weight heifers. Due to the lower nutrition, the lighter heifers will experience lower pregnancy rates, and since the heavier heifers are receiving more nutrition than they actually may need, they can become over-conditioned. This added body fat will lower pregnancy rates as well. Sorting heifers by weight allows beef producers to provide more nutrition to lighter weight heifers to achieve an appropriate weight and BCS prior to breeding season and feed less to heavier heifers to maintain a similar, appropriate BCS.
- Feed Performance Trace Minerals: Feeding beef heifers performance trace minerals, such as Availa® 4, prior to breeding can improve their breeding success and likelihood of joining the breeding herd. A University of Arkansas study showed that 17 percent more heifers entered the breeding herd when they were fed performance trace minerals from Availa-4. Additionally, 10 percent more heifers gave birth to a calf, 11 percent fewer heifers were culled after their first year in the herd and 11 percent fewer heifers were culled before their first pregnancy determination.
- Breed Heifers Earlier Than Cows: Breeding heifers two weeks earlier than mature cows will give them more time to recover after giving birth to their first calf. This additional recovery time can help increase the chances of cycling again before the breeding season begins. This will benefit a heifer’s ability to re-breed on time in her second and subsequent breeding seasons and stay in sync with the rest of the cow herd.
- Wean Calves from Heifers Earlier Than Calves from Cows: It’s not enough to breed heifers earlier than cows. Beef producers should also consider weaning calves from first-calf heifers earlier as well. If the calves from first-calf heifers are born two weeks earlier than the rest of the herd but weaned at the same time, those first-calf heifers will be lactating longer and will have more weight to recover before their second calving and subsequent breeding season.
To learn more about how feeding Zinpro Performance Minerals® such as Availa-4 can help improve first and second breeding success for beef heifers, contact a Zinpro representative today.