How to boost your herd’s fertility this breeding season

At this stage, farmers will be putting a plan in place for the upcoming breeding season in order to achieve targets and get as many cows back in-calf as quickly as possible.

One way of improving the fertility of the herd is to offer cows access to good-quality grass while also supplementing concentrates.

Feeding cows high-quality feed months prior to the breeding season – going back to the dry period and into early lactation – will have a positive impact on their fertility

A couple of factors that should be taken into account when trying to improve the fertility of the herd over the coming weeks are listed (below).

These include:

  • Body condition score (BCS);
  • Pasture quality;
  • Mineral supplementation.

BCS

Ideally, you want your cows coming into the breeding season with a BCS of between 2.75 and 3.25.

At this stage of the season, it is quite difficult to make much change with regards to BCS so close to the mating start date (MSD).

The short-term solution for cows you plan on breeding that are below the ideal BCS is to milk them once a day (OAD) four-to-five weeks pre-breeding and a couple of weeks after submission.

It should help improve the energy balance and help to get cows cycling again and possibly improve conception rates.

Realistically, improving BCS through feeding extra concentrates a few weeks prior to mating won’t get cows back in ideal condition on time, as it takes a couple of months to ‘fix’ very thin cows by feeding additional concentrates.

Grass quality

At this stage of the year, grass is going to make up the bulk of a cow’s diet; therefore, it is important that cows are given access to good-quality grass.

Grass quality is the key to getting good energy into the diet. Therefore, to ensure cows are well fed and coming into the breeding period in good condition, the following points (below) should be taken into consideration.

  • Allow cows to graze covers of 1,400kg DM/ha;
  • Grass should be leafy, with minimal stem and no seed head;
  • Target a grass intake per cow of 17/18kg DM;
  • Graze paddocks out to 4cm – to enable strong regrowths and to ensure cows are well fed.

Mineral supplementation

As well as having access to good-quality grass, it is vital that farmers continue to incorporate minerals in the diet through concentrate supplementation.

Typically, at this stage of lactation, if grass supplies are adequate, cows will be fed 1-2kg of concentrates per milking – in some cases, it might be higher on some farms.

A typical ration fed at this stage of the season will consist of a three-way mix of cereals (barley), a fibre source (beet pulp), and a protein source (distillers) – split evenly – at a 2kg feeding rate.

These three ingredients added together will bring you up to a 14% ration overall. Also included in the mix, typically, are some molasses, vegetable oil and a host of macro and trace minerals.

Feeding a high-energy nut that includes CalMag will help to prevent cows from getting grass tetany, along with feeding good-quality grass which will go a long way in matching the nutritional requirements of the herd and help with fertility.