Importance of Nutrition and Breeding Back

Apr 16, 2020

Tara Jo Bina
Countryside Feed Sales & Nutrition Professional
Why is breeding back so important?
Cows calving every 365 days is a major goal cow calf producers strive to achieve. Hitting this goal requires each cow to breed back within 85 days of calving. Identifying and culling open cows early is an opportunity for cost savings in cow calf operations. On average, costs of maintaining an open cow range from $700 - $900 per year depending on several variables such as labor, feed, fixed costs, etc. and to add insult to injury, the revenue from selling a calf is lost as well. Assuming 550-pound steers bring $145/CWT, that is $800 left on the table, totaling the cost of maintaining an open cow for a year to $1,600 or $4.38 per day:
$800 (cow maintenance) + $800 (lost calf revenue) = $1600 per year
$1600 per year / 365 days = $4.38 per day
As cows extend past 85 days open, calving windows widen and weaning weights become less consistent. Using the same scenario as above, a cow that is open just one extra cycle will be unproductive for roughly 21 days, accumulating maintenance cost of around $46 ($2.19 per day). Assuming a 2.5-pound average daily gain (ADG) a calf born outside of the normal calving window will weigh approximately 50 pounds less than its contemporaries, and will bring about $72.50 less at sale. With this, costs of a cow being for 21 days totals to $118.50:  
$800 (yearly cow maintenance) / 365 days = $2.19 / day * 21 days = $46 per cycle open
50 pounds (lost gain) * $145/CWT = $72.50 less calf revenue
$46 (unproductive maintenance) + $72.50 (lost calf revenue) = $118.50 cost of extra 21 days open

What can producers do to help cows breed back in a timely manner?
Body condition scoring (BCS) and offering cows proper nutrition are two practices that can help with cow calf operation management.
Body Condition Scoring is a method of assessing an animal’s degree of fatness. In beef cattle, BCS is evaluated on a scale of 1 – 9, 1 being emaciated and 9 being extremely obese. Ideally, cows should calve at a 6 BCS. Both thin and fat cows tend to fail to cycle and conceive in a timely manner compared to those calving in at an ideal BCS. Thin cows (1 – 4 BCS) also have increased days to first estrus, longer calving intervals, as well as giving birth to calves with less vigor. On the other hand, problems associated with fat cows (8 – 9 BCS) are difficulty calving, impaired mobility, and expense of maintenance.
Providing adequate levels of available vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, D, and E, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, and cobalt, is very important. Supplementation of these nutrients is strongly encouraged year-round because they play vital roles in every process the body needs to function. In the months leading up to calving through breeding season vitamins and minerals are involved in producing quality colostrum, repairing tissues damaged in calving, and preparing the reproductive tract for rebreeding.
Protein and energy are also important nutrients to consider. Not only do they help maintain ideal BCS, it also gives cows the energy to endure the calving process and support lactation. Ensuring cattle are getting proper nutrition may require supplementation at many times of the year. Forage testing and monitoring grass quality are great tools for identifying what nutrients need to be supplemented.
Contact your Countryside Feed representative for more questions on the importance of nutrition in breeding efficiency, and for products that will help benefit your cow calf operation.

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