The breeders guide is aimed at assisting breeders to increase the fertility and efficiency of a commercial beef breeding herd. Fertility ranks amongst the highest factors contributing to herd productivity and profitability. If on farm performance can be maximised it will have a major positive impact on the profitability and sustainability of the herd.
Good management of heifers is critical for their long term productivity. By carefully focusing on heifers during their development stage and achieving the benchmarks set, you will be rewarded with breeding females that remain productive in the herd over a long period of time.
1. Weaning to joining (6 months to 15 months)
Continued growth aiming for critical joining weight of 300kg+
- Aim to limit the number of heifers under 300kg at joining
- Growth rate needed can be calculated based on the weaning weight
- Join heifers for a maximum of six weeks
Use the following scenario as an example:
Weaning date: 1st March
Average weaning weight: 240kg
Joining date: 16th October
Average critical joining weight: 320kg
Live weight gain needed: 80kg
Days to gain live weight: 200 days
Average daily weight gain needed: 0.4kg/day (80kg divided by 200 days)
Always aim slightly higher that where you want to end up as it provides some insurance.
2. Pregnancy - 1st and 2nd Trimester (15 months to 21 months)
a. Provide good nutrition to ensure skeletal growth
b. Heifers should be in body condition scores of 3-4
3. Pregnancy - 3rd Trimester (21 months to 24 months)
a. Restrict nutrition to a maintenance level to prevent excessive foetal growth.
b. Aim to avoid heifers losing body condition to ensure they calve in forward condition (this is difficult to achieve as there is a fine line between over feeding and under feeding).
4. Post calving (24 months to 27 months)
a. Provide good nutrition to enable to heifer to reconceive.
1. Ensure heifers reach their critical joining weight
2. Join heifers for a maximum of six weeks
3. Minimise culling on heifers till after pregnancy testing
a. Join the majority of your heifers
b. Cull any heifers that are not PTIC
4. Minimise Dystocia (Calving difficulty)
a. Select the correct bulls for heifer joining
b. Correctly manage nutrition during pregnancy
5. First calvers have increased energy demands and feed levels need to be adequate to ensure heifers have the ability to:
Function of the Breeding Female
- Wean a live calf in equal to or less than 365 days.
- Aim to re-conceive early in the breeding season.
- Maximise calf weaning weight.
- Remain productive in the herd over a long period of time.
A significant investment has been made in our young breeding females, therefore we need to aim to maximise the number of years that cows remain in the herd and calves that our cows return us over their lifetime. Once breeding heifers have reconceived with their second calf and they enter the cow herd it is critical to manage them correctly to ensure they are retained for a long period of time.
Listed below are some tips to help increase the productive life a breeding cow:
1. The ability of a cow to re-conceive post calving is dependent on:
a. Body condition at calving
b. Nutrition post calving
c. Number of days post calving
Aim to maximise all of the above where possible.
2. Cull strictly for the following:
a. Empty pregnancy test
b. Failure to wean a calf
3. Where possible cull for the following:
a. Udder attachment
c. Foot and leg structure
d. Continual weaning of light calves
A bull offers two important things for a beef breeding herd, he is a genetic package and a semen delivery system. A bull purchase is an investment and by increasing the number of breeding seasons a bull can cover a greater return on investment will be achieved.
Listed below are some tips to help increase the productive life a breeding bull:
1. Buy the correct bull
a. Ensure you select the correct genetics that will assist you to most quickly achieve your breeding objectives
b. Select for structural soundness to provide a good delivery system
2. Upon arrival
a. Provide the bull with some friendly animals to help him adjust to his new environment
b. It is a good idea to expose bulls to a couple of empty females prior to their first joining period and then remove at 4 to 6 weeks before joining.
c. Do not put young bulls in with old bulls straight away
a. Monitor the live weight of bulls- overweight bulls have a greater incidence of breakdown
b. Ensure vaccinations are up to date (All Landfall Bulls are fully vaccinated against Clostridial diseases, BVDV Pestivirus and Vibriosis. In addition QLD bulls are vaccinated for 3 day sickness).
c. Assess bulls annually via a breeding soundness examination (structure, fertility, service ability)
4. During Joining
a. Check new bulls regularly, they have the highest incidence of breakdown
b. We are aiming to have 65% of females conceive in the first 3 weeks so this will be the busiest time.
c. Ensure multiple sire joined bulls are compatible
d. Observe females for cycling activity, carry a notebook and record the ID of cows that have been serviced. Re-check in 3 weeks to ensure they do not return heat.
e. Check joining mobs at least twice a week, it is important to identify problems as they occur rather than at pregnancy testing. This way a strategy can be put in place to reduce the number of empty females.
5. Post Joining
a. Do not allow bulls to get overweight in their off-season.
b. Pregnancy test early to identify empty cows.
1. Join heifers for 6 weeks aiming for greater than 80% conception rate
2. Join cows for 8 weeks aiming for greater than 90% conception rate
3. Aim for greater than 65% of calves to be born in the first 3 weeks of calving
If the above benchmarks can be achieved some of the advantages that will be experienced are:
1. Easier management as it condenses calving and calf marking
2. Better pasture utilisation
3. More even groups of progeny to market
4. Higher lifetime production from cows
5. Increased herd productivity, profitability and sustainability
The breeders guide has been compiled with the assistance of Reon Holmes BVSc, Holbrook Veterinary Centre.