Feeding for fertility
15 February 2018
Finding the right genetics to fast track the reproductive efficiency of your herd is only one component of feeding for fertility. Success, according to Chris Mirams, a deliverer of MLA's new Bred Well Fed Well Beef program, hinges on nutrition and condition management.
Chris, an agricultural consultant, said producers who understand the condition score and energy requirements of cattle at different stages in their production cycle are better positioned to achieve high conception rates, a concentrated calving pattern, an even drop of calves and a high heifer retention rate – all leading to a resilient young herd.
“Herd performance is impacted by genes plus nutrition, so selecting the right genetics is wonderful, but it doesn’t end there,” Chris said.
“Managing cow and heifer condition score and nutrition is critical, as they drive the onset of oestrus. The earlier the oestrus, the more likely we will achieve our goal of maintaining a 365-day calving interval.”
The new Bred Well Fed Well Beef program, supported by MLA, gives producers practical tools to understand their breeding herd’s energy requirements and to better turn pasture into product.
The one-day workshops take a whole-of-enterprise approach to the complex and interlinking system of selecting, breeding, feeding and managing a profitable herd.
The ‘fed well’ component takes producers through steps to refine heifer/cow nutrition to ensure they’re getting the most out of their cattle (for more information on the ‘bred well’ part of the workshop, read selecting heifers to retain and establishing breeding objectives).
Bred Well Fed Well guides producers through growing the right quality and quantity of grass, and matching animals’ different physiological needs to available feed supply.
Two important points to note for breeder nutrition requirements:
- A dry cow’s energy requirements are 11 megajoules/100kg live weight (6% protein in feed source). This increases during pregnancy and lactation.
- Energy and protein requirement roughly doubles during lactation, which is the peak of nutritional demand.
Producers at the workshop will also learn more about tools to specifically manage heifers’ nutrition to achieve early calving.
“A heifer’s critical mating weight is approximately 60% of her mature body weight for Bos Taurus breeds,” Chris said.
“For example, a heifer should be 360kg at joining if anticipated to grow into a 600kg cow.”
Failing to proactively manage the growth trajectory of heifers and meeting their nutritional requirements can result in lower conception rates, inadequate pelvic size, dystocia, slow return to oestrus post calving, and a spread-out calving.
The workshops also cover:
- using condition scoring to ensure breeders are in the right condition and cycling at critical times, such as joining and weaning
- identifying optimal joining time so peak lactation occurs when pasture is of adequate quality and quantity.
“Calving at the right condition score and calving onto high quality pastures has a huge effect on the time it takes a cow to cycle again,” Chris said.
Heifer and cow nutrition is just one part of Bred Well Fed Well Beef – to find out more or register your interest in attending or hosting a workshop, contact:
The one-day Bred Well Fed Well workshop includes hands-on practical activities, such as assessing bulls, developing a breeding objective and condition scoring. There is a participation fee of $75pp with a minimum of 15 people required.
Tips and tools – managing heifer and cow nutrition
- Tip: Join heifers at 60% of their mature cow weight
Tool: Calving histogram calculator, to measure the performance of your herd management for calving
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