Mar 16, 2020

While calving season is in effect, it is not too early to start thinking about factors that can play a part in making next year’s calf crop successful too. Making decisions on proper mineral intake is critical in ensuring cows have the nutrients needed to get through calving season and are in optimal condition to breed back come breeding season.

According to Roxanne Knock, PhD Staff Nutritionist for Dakotaland Feeds, young cows can prove challenging to successfully breed back after their first calf due to lactation, growth, and the body’s preparation for re-breeding.

“Early grass for these young cows may not provide enough energy at turnout time more because of their  inability to reach necessary intake than because of the forage quality,” she said. “Accuration blocks or tubs can be used to help supplement energy intake during the first couple weeks of grazing to help overcome the challenge of inadequate energy intake.”

Keeping cows in adequate shape is also essential to re-breeding.

“With a lot of poor-quality hay being fed this past winter, cows may not be in as good of shape as they normally are this spring,” Agtegra Feed Division Manager Scott Kilber said. “Trying to keep their condition and mineral status up will be key to getting them bred back on time.”

Minerals prove vital to not only preparing the cow’s reproductive tract for another calf but also to the survival rate of the embryo upon development. Deficiencies in zinc and copper can cause loss of initial embryos, which causes the cow to move backwards in her cycle. Maintaining adequate levels of copper and zinc means keeping a cow on schedule. In addition, zinc and manganese help in preparing the reproductive tract before breeding, and combined with high quality mineral programs, cows can return to cyclicity sooner and have a better chance to breed earlier.

Post-calving, cows can be deficient in certain minerals, as producing a calf draws on the cow’s mineral stores.

“The fetus draws mineral stores from the cow to help build their trace mineral stores so they can develop their own immune system after calving,” Knock said. “This leaves the cow needing to replete her own mineral stores so she can be ready for breeding season. If cows have not already been on a mineral program, it can take 3-4 weeks to get their mineral levels replenished and back to acceptable levels.”

Other minerals essential to fetal development include calcium and phosphorus, while copper, zinc, and other trace minerals prove important to muscle and organ development, immune function, and calf vigor.

“The lack of any of these minerals will increase calf death loss and/or the number of slow-starting calves and will reduce the number of cows cycling at the onset of breeding season,” Kilber said.

Breeding season success relies on other nutritional aspects in addition to mineral. Cows behind in condition at calving time likely will still be behind at breeding time as well; poor body condition can mean delayed return to estrus, pushing breeding and calving even later in the year, a problem easily corrected if she was kept in optimal condition at calving. Another mineral to be watchful of includes selenium, one that is naturally high in many parts of North and South Dakota.  Selenium is important to reproduction, but too much can result in poor reproductive rates. If so, it may need to be removed from part of the mineral program in place.

Several options exist for feeding mineral. The list below includes a few recommended products for calving and pre-breeding season that can be chosen based on producers’ feeding preferences and operation:
  • Ultimate Breeder 8
  • Breeder 8 free-choice loose minerals
  • RL Cow Balancer R800 (for feeding with feed wagons; comes in pellet form with Rumensin)
  • Wind and Rain All Season 4 Availa 4 Mineral Tub
  • Stress Tubs
When feeding products with Rumensin, it is recommended that it be fed at least 30 days prior to calving to clean coccidia out of the cow before a calf hits the ground. Other recommended products should also be fed 30 days prior to calving through the middle of the calving season, while Breeder 8 and Wind and Rain All Season 4 Availa 4 should be fed through the breeding season.

Decisions made now can impact the future; make sure your cows are ready for the calving and breeding seasons with the right minerals.

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