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Suckler herd breeding season success

Suckler herd breeding season success

A successful breeding season within a suckler herd hinges on a number of key factors, Professor David Kenny, Head of Animal and Bioscience Department at Teagasc, told a recent Future Beef Webinar titled: ‘Getting your cow back in calf’.

The starting point, Professor Kenny explained, is having cows in the correct body condition score at calving, with good to moderate condition preferred. Achieving this helps to reduce the interval between calving and when normal heat cycles resume, thus giving the cow more of a chance to conceive within the targeted 10-12 week breeding season, while additionally allowing more cows to conceive within the first three weeks of the mating period.

Stock bull management

Although calving the cows down in the correct body condition score is the starting point, careful attention also needs to be paid to the stock bull/bulls on farm.

“If you are using a stock bull, it is really important to assess the fertility of that bull well prior to the breeding season. Just because a bull was fertile last year doesn’t mean he’s going to be fertile again the following year.

“It is very important to get those bulls assessed in plenty of time before the start of the breeding season and ideally get a full veterinary health check conducted because it’s not just semen quality, it is also the locomotion, the limb quality of the bull, and the general health of the bull.”

On why this is important, Professor Kenny explained: “In many cases, you are asking the bull to do a substantial amount of work, particularly in the first 6 weeks of the breeding season and they can often lose up to 10% of their body weight during that period.”

For farmers instead opting to use AI over a stock bull, Professor Kenny highlighted the importance of putting effort into heat detection on a daily basis, adding: “If you can’t put in the time or effort into heat detection and if you don’t have the technologies then you can’t expect to get good results for AI, so heat detection is absolutely critical.”

Grass supply

Another point highlighted was to avoid fluctuations in grass supply or diet during the breeding season, with Professor Kenny pointing to research which has shown that such fluctuations or grass shortages can result in conception rates dropping by up to 50%.

For more key tips on getting your cows back in calf this spring, watch a recording of the webinar below:

Slow and steady approach delivers for suckler herd fertility