Beef Cattle Reproductive Management

       Profitability in a cow/calf operation depends on pounds weaned per cow, costs of production, and market price. Producers have relatively little control over market price compared to the opportunity to affect production level and costs. Controlling costs is prudent and should be done in a manner that does not dramatically reduce overall production.

     Pounds weaned per cow is a function of percent calf crop and weaning weight. The latter is easily improved by using herd sires with the genetic potential for increased growth in their offspring, but changes in calf crop are a direct result of management strategies which affect the female's chances of conceiving, as well as inputs which affect her calf's chances of survival.

     New reproductive technologies allow producers to use the best genetics on their cattle to improve their herd. Tools like artificial insemination (AI), estrus synchronization, embryo transfer, and even sexed semen give today's cattleman the opportunity to maximize the genetic potential of his herd.

     At a minimum, sound reproductive management should include disease control, adequate nutrition, fertility testing in herd sires, a controlled breeding season limited to eighty days or less, and annual identification and removal of sub fertile females. Producers who raise replacement heifers should manage them to calve first at two years of age. The likelihood of being profitable is increased by managing the herd for a desirable calf crop percentage while paying close attention to controlling costs.

     Problems with excitable cattle are becoming a more important issue in the beef industry, both from the standpoint of handler and animal safety and economic returns. Colorado State University conducted an experiment examining the effects of temperament on weight gains and the incidence of dark cutting. Cattle were temperament ranked, on a 5 point system, while animals were held on a single animal scale. Their results show that there is a highly significant effect of temperament ranking on average daily gain. Animals exhibiting the highest temperament ranking also have the lowest average daily gains. Conversely, animals that were the calmest had the highest average daily gains. Their results also show that those cattle that have the highest temperament ranking, those that were berserk, also have the highest incidence of dark cutters. See the example of a dark-cutting carcass pictured on left side. This carcass will be discounted approximately $35 per hundred pounds compared to the brightly colored carcass on the right. In fact 25% of the cattle that had a temperament score of 5 exhibited dark cutting, while less than 5% of the cattle that had temperament scores of 1,2,3, and 4 exhibited dark cutting. These findings show that animals that have very high temperament scores have reduced feedlot performance and increased incidence of dark cutting.

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