The correct preparation of cows before the start of the mating season can have a positive effect on their conception as well as the calving percentage. This automatically improves the weaning percentage, which means more calves to sell and a larger selection pool of replacement heifers.
The preparation of cows for the mating season actually begins before the start of the calving season. Nutrition plays a critical role during late pregnancy and at the start of calving season to ensure they are in a satisfactory condition at the start of the mating season to ensure they conceive within the mating season.
Ideally cows should be ready for mating 90 days after they have calved. Cows in good condition (body score of 3,5 out of 5) at the start of mating season conceive more easily than thin (<2,5) or too-fat (>4) cows. Cows in sub-optimal condition at calving may have difficulty conceiving in the first 30 to 60 days of the mating season. This leads to an extended calving season and the subsequent risk of some cows skipping it altogether.
It is very difficult to dramatically improve a cow’s condition shortly before the mating season while they are nursing a calf. It is usually much easier and cheaper to improve the cows condition over a longer period (from before calving) than to attempt to do it after calving only. As condition is the most determining factor in conception percentage, we must do everything in our power to get cows into an acceptable mating condition, even if we have to make use of supplemental feeding (e.g. silage, irrigated pasture, good quality hay etc.), together with a production lick.
Ensure that the cows’ levels of trace minerals, and vitamins A and E, are optimal. A cow relinquishes about one third of her trace minerals when calving (to the calf, the amniotic fluid, and the production of colostrum). Although cows take in trace minerals through their grazing and licks throughout the year, a top-up with Multimin® and vitamins A and E four weeks before mating, can have a positive affect on conception by directly improving trace-mineral levels. This will help to get cows conceiving earlier in the mating season (shorter calf interval) and limit early embryonal losses.
Depending on factors such as the climate, season, grazing available and the parasite load, the control of internal parasites can be invaluable. It can almost be regarded as part of a flush-feeding effect, through the elimination of the negative effects of internal parasites (such as anaemia, reduced appetite, diarrhoea, irritation, etc.). Although cattle are not as adversely affected by internal parasites as sheep, certain parasites, especially liver fluke, can have an extremely detrimental effect on their condition and fertility.
External parasites, especially lice in late winter and ticks and flies during summer, can negatively affect the cows’ condition as well lead to tick-borne diseases. Controlling external parasites according to the degree of contamination and the expected onset of conditions that favour them, is recommended. It is especially important to dip cows when they are put into rested camps, or camps that have not been grazed for a while, to prevent a sudden increase in tick challenge.
Ensure that the necessary vaccinations required before mating season have been given at least four weeks before the start of mating season. Certain live vaccines (e.g. BVDV and other respiratory diseases), as well as vibriosis and trichomoniasis, should be given prior to the mating season. Avoid administering any vaccines during mating season.
Cows that developed udder, teat, and hoof problems should not be mated and should be clearly marked for culling. Examine the cows’ teeth and remove cows that have worn teeth from the group to be mated, even if they are currently in an acceptable condition. Such cows will only cause problems and will likely require high management inputs if they calf again.
Because areas differ, it would be advisable to consult your local veterinarian, feed consultant and your Virbac Technical Sales Advisor for the correct advice to plan for the above.