Cattle Reproductive Failures: How Can They Be Avoided

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Reproductive failures in your herd can be a significant financial loss to your operation. Many times, our way of thinking is that we have a good pregnancy rate if we have about the same rate as our neighbors or slightly better. As producers, we need to have a more in-depth understanding of reproductive failures and how to fix them. The most common issues are leaving the bull in too long, infectious causes of reproductive failure, below average nutrition, poor bull management, and uncontrolled fertility.

Leaving a bull in too long and not having a defined breeding season is one of the most common issues when it comes to reproductive failures. The longer a bull is left in with the herd, the more likely some of the cows will shift to calving later in the season, which can also lead to some of the cows falling out of the herd due to the fact they stay open. Lack of uniformity in calves is also an issue that can arise from leaving the bull in too long. When calves are born over a wider spread of a calving season due to cows not all being bred within a certain time frame, it spreads out the weaning date, the weaning weight, and the ultimate marketability of the calves.

Herd health also plays a roll in the reproductive fortitude of the herd. Not only does good herd health help fight common illnesses in the brood cow, such as pinkeye and pneumonia, but also diseases such as Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD). BVD can cause abortion if caught within the first three months of gestation. Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis can cause abortion from four months to term, and can be hard to control due to it can be an airborne transmitted disease. Some venereal diseases, such as Vibriosis and Trichomoniasis, can be passed by the bull from cow to cow. Infectious diseases can be managed by having a well-managed vaccination program and avoiding stress in the cattle.

Poor nutrition in the herd can be a limiting factor in the fertility of your herd. Cows need to be in a good body condition at calving to speed up the recovery process and cause the days to first estrus. If the cow is of a low body score, the increased nutrient requirement throughout the calving process can delay the first estrus and thus causing more time to start cycling.

Forgetting about the bull can be a large contributing factor on below average reproductive productivity. When a cow has a fertility problem, it only affects that one cow. When a bull has a fertility problem, it can affect up to the whole herd or group he is breeding. Having bulls checked with a Breeding Soundness Exam (BSE) are a cheap way to make sure your bull is a productive investment on your farm. A problem with a bull isn’t normally noticed until after the breeding season. Bull needs to be checked throughout the breeding season to check for lameness, disease, and libido. All of these factors can lead to bulls being at sub-par performance.

One of the biggest issues that we have with reproductive failure is uncontrolled infertility. This deals with embryonic mortality during early pregnancy. This is something that is out of our control. Within the first seven days after breeding, embryonic survival rate is 95%. By the 28th day, embryonic survival has dwindled down to 70% and by the 42nd day it has dropped to 62%. This drop in survivability isn’t understood but using proper management and being observant may help you better the percentages of fertility in your herd.

These factors that have been discussed should be evaluated each year. This can help your productivity in your herd and ultimately help the economic bottom line.

Sources:

Walker, R., Ph.D. (2020, Spring). Top 5 Reproductive Failures in Beef Operations. Beefmaster, 6.