COLUMBIA, Mo. – Beef cattle inventory done Jan. 1, 2005, indicates number of beef cattle replacement heifers in the United States – weighing 500 pounds and over – are up 4 percent compared to one year earlier.
“This means many cattle owners will be saving heifers, perhaps for the first time in several years,” said Eldon Cole, livestock specialist for University of Missouri Extension.
With that being the case, Cole offers some suggestions for a successful spring breeding season.
Are they eating? One important factor is making sure the heifers have been gaining well this winter and be near a target of 65 percent to 70 percent of their mature weight.
“The selection emphasis for several years has resulted in larger adult cows, which means 14- and 15-month-old heifers should be weighing in the 750- to 800-pound range,” said Cole.
Get them checked. After size is considered, the heifers should be in a gaining condition and be cycling.
Cycling can be observed visually, but Cole recommends using a veterinarian to evaluate the reproductive tract score by palpation.
The inspection can determine if the heifers have reached puberty and whether there are reproductive tract abnormalities.
At the same time, the pelvic area can be measured. This will help find heifers that have abnormally small pelvic opening and they should be culled.
Have they cycled? “If the heifers show that less than 50 percent have not reached puberty and are not cycling, their energy intake needs to be boosted immediately, especially if they are to be bred in April or early May,” Cole stated.
According to Cole, virgin heifers have higher conception rates if they’ve had a couple of estrus cycles before they’re bred.
“Anything you can do to get heifers bred early in the season helps set them up for a productive life that has them calving early each year which translates into older, heavier calves at weaning,” Cole said.
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