Nutrition has the biggest impact on fertility

November 11, 2011

The goal of the beef producer who runs cows is to see every cow in the herd raise a calf each year for at least eight years. Dry periods, disease and variable nutrition are some of the factors that interfere with a cow’s fertility.

Last week more than 100 beef producers from the area attended a seminar in Barraba to discuss in detail the critical issue of beef fertility. The day was organised by Double B Beef and local veterinary practice, Nandewar Animal Services. Ben Gardiner, Michelle Coulton, Sandy Carlon, Tamaryn Grimmer, all vets in the practice, addressed the gathering, along with LHPA vets Ted Irwin, Shaun Slattery and Dave Gardiner.

According to Nandewar Animal Services Principal, Ben Gardiner, who was the first of the speakers to address the seminar, nutrition has the biggest impact on fertility. “Producers need to have an understanding of their pastures’ growth curve. “Being able to make an accurate assessment of available pasture at any given time and knowing what the critical minimum conditions are at the various stages of the reproductive cycle are essential to the productivity of the herd,” Dr Gardiner said.

Dr Gardiner went on to raise issues like the cost of carrying a dry cow, the cost of giving females a “second chance” to become pregnant and the nutritional demand that goes with an extended calving period. “You can’t manage what you don’t know,” he said.

Michelle Coulton’s address focused on diseases that impact fertility but she also stated that “good nutrition prevents lots of problems.” Sandy Carlon and Tamaryn Grimmer addressed the topic of Managing Dystocia.

Dr Carlon stated that a low plane of nutrition is a big problem for heifers which need size and condition to successfully become and remain pregnant. “The weaning to breeding period has a profound effect on subsequent calving ability as a two year old,” she said.

The importance of record keeping was also raised, with Dr Carlon stating that by noting information like frame and condition scores at the time of joining, mobs, ages, bull details, vaccines, length of joining and pregnancy rates by paddock, reliable information is available about the season and the herd, rather than having to rely on memory later if problems arise.

Dr Irwin and Dr Slattery talked about determining the causes of abortions and deaths as well as problems associated with slow calvings. The emerging threat of buffalo fly was also discussed.

Dave Gardiner provided an amusing wrap up of the day along with some of his own observations about the direction of beef cattle breeding.

The day, which was extensively advertised in the local newspapers and ABC radio, provided an excellent opportunity for beef producers to reassess their herd management. A number of producers commented that the applicability of the information provided by the local vets involved in the day was invaluable.