HOW TO: Breeding Seasons

Updated: Sep 1, 2021



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Breeding in the beef herd (enabling a bull to mate with a cow in heat) and consequently calving, can take place at any time of year, or it can be limited to a specific time of year. When breeding occurs during a limited breeding season, the most usual technique is either a spring calving or an autumn calving season, while some farmers employ two breeding seasons per year, allowing cows that miss a breeding season to be bred in the following breeding season.


Whether breeding occurs all year or only for a portion of the year, each system has advantages and disadvantages that are typically determined by the farmer's needs and the location of the farm. The main limiting factor is that cows are pregnant for 283 days and do not normally re-conceive before 50 to 60 days after calving (post-partum).


Breeding Throughout the Year


When breeding occurs throughout the year, it is customary to leave the bulls with the cow-herd at all times. When heifers are ready for mating, they are brought into the breeding herd. Cows kept with the bull all year tend to fall into a calving season of their own volition, with the majority calving down in spring.


Advantages:

  • Breeding throughout the year, or in overlapping breeding seasons, is required if a farmer desires milk for household use all year.

  • Bulls remain in the herd, resulting in less bull management and, if a farmer has more than one bull, less bull fighting. Bulls who are kept in all-male groups during the non-breeding season frequently fight, damaging equipment and harming one another.

  • Because only a small percentage of cows are in heat at any given time, fewer bulls are required, i.e. only 2% of bulls are required.

  • Cows are served as they commence cycle after calving.

  • When heifers reach a certain mass, they are mated.

  • Marketing can take place at any time of year.

Disadvantages:

  • A high level of nutrition is required at all times, including during the winter, to ensure optimal conception rates.

  • Management tasks such as dehorning, immunization, and castration must be carried out on a year-round basis.

  • When artificial insemination is utilized, heat spotting must be done all year, which adds greatly to labor requirements.

Restricted Breeding Season


Advantages:

  • The feed requirements of the herd may be easily matched to the farm's feed supply.

  • Herd management and feed flow planning are made easier. As a result, all calves can be dehorned and castrated in a matter of days, freeing up the remainder of the year for other activities. This could be a significant benefit for someone who is not constantly present on a farm or where other enterprises must be considered.

  • It is simpler to track conception rates and design a simple approach for detecting cows that do not reconceive.

  • In small herds, the only means to test performance is through seasonal breeding, as at least 10 to 15 animals in each group must be tested. To produce 10 bulls for a group comparison, for example, at least 30 calves must be born within a three-month period (approximately 50 percent of calves are male and mortalities must be taken into account).

  • When beef prices are favorable, animals can be marketed in homogenous groupings.

  • Heat spotting is only required for a brief time when artificial insemination is utilized.

Disadvantages:

  • If a cow does not conceive while the bull is in the herd, she must wait until the following breeding season to be impregnated, wasting a year of her useful life.

  • Because many cows go into heat during the first six weeks of the breeding season, more bulls are required at mating time, i.e. 4% to 6% bulls are recommended, depending on the type of farm, the number of paddocks, and the size of the herds where mating is taking place.

  • Bulls must be cared for during the non-breeding season, putting additional strain on the enterprise's management demands. Good holding pens are required to separate bulls and reduce damage when bulls fight, which is typical in all-male groups.

  • Heifer rearing necessitates additional management since heifers must be kept in a separate herd and brought out to the appropriate breeding season's target mass.


Length of the Breeding Season

  • Cows cycle every 21 days if they are not in calf. It is therefore recommended that the breeding season lasts 60 to 90 days, giving cows two to three (in a 60 day breeding season) or three to four (in a 90 day breeding season) chances to take the bull.

  • If a farmer wants management operations to take place over a short period of time so that the beef enterprise can fit in with other activities, a shorter breeding season of 60 days might be used.

  • Longer breeding seasons, on the other hand, are less prone to catastrophes such as low conception rates as a result of unfavorable weather conditions and are less demanding on management.







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