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  • Megan Silveira, associate editor

Overcoming Your Herd’s Biggest Reproductive Obstacle

Meeting your cow herd's nutritional needs ensures you’re doing all you can to help them have successful pregnancies.

The best cows are ones that consistently produce quality calves. Plain and simple.

While that is a straightforward truth for the cattle industry, things become a little more muddled when producers attempt to discover how to help their females reach that level of consistency.

Dusty Abney, technical consultant for Cargill Animal Nutrition, said the secret lies in the animal’s nutritional needs. He and Anna Taylor, head of innovation and technology at Cargill Animal Nutrition, spoke on using nutrition goals and planning to improve a herd’s reproductivity at the 2021 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Winter Reboot.

“The biggest obstacle is nutrition,” Abney said of achieving better reproduction, “but it’s always where you can have the biggest impact. Do everything feasible in your power to make sure these animals breed when they’re supposed to breed.”

Taylor said the best way to tackle the relationship between nutrition and reproduction is to consider cattle as athletes. When producers make a nutrition plan for their herd, Taylor said they simply need to allocate groceries to cows and then, in turn, the females will allocate those nutrients.

The priorities of a cow can be observed in a hierarchy. Taylor explains cows first have to maintain their own life before their bodies even consider maintaining a calf. Cattle’s needs are ranked in a pyramid based on their individual importance to maintaining life.

The rankings Taylor listed are as follows:

1. Basic metabolism or general maintenance

2. Activity to gather feed

3. Individual growth

4. Basic energy reserves and energy storage

5. Maintenance of pregnancy

6. Lactation

7. Accumulation of fat

8. Estrous and initiation of pregnancy

9. Excess fat

She said there is a lot a producer has to consider on a daily basis to make sure a cow can fulfill each of these levels. Taylor also warns the nutrients needed to fulfill each level can shift depending on weather.

If producers are preparing to enter breeding season, Taylor said they need to understand their livestock’s hierarchy of nutrition needs to see successful pregnancies.

“You have to understand where you want to get from a nutrition standpoint, but also where that fits into your reproduction goals,” she explained.

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