Empty cows are an everyday part of suckler farming. Managing to achieve a 100% pregnancy rate is nigh-on impossible. However if the number of empty cows is greater than 5%, an evaluation of the management, nutrition and herd health needs to take place.
Studies done on cows show a strong link between body condition score of cows and their ability to go back in calf. Cows in better condition have a greater chance of breeding early and a greater chance of going in-calf and staying in-calf at the first time of asking. A cow that is thin at calving generally does not go in calf as easy. If a farmer remembers his calving season he’ll know if a cow was thin at calving or not. This may be a signal for the farmer to increase nutrition ensuring the cow has a good body condition score.
The weight gain pattern of females may also be the culprit. Cattle losing weight often do not go in-calf or stay in-calf. If a farmers cows cannot support weight gain or maintenance then it is likely that they will struggle to support pregnancy. Wet, high protein grass may cause nutritional challenges to a high-producing beef cow. If cows are beginning to gain weight, or at the very least not losing weight, during breeding season it will benefit a farmers pregnancy rates.
Many farmers in Ireland have land away from the farm which means they are forced to haul cows to different fields. Transporting cows can result in stress that can effect conception. The rule is not to haul cows 4 to 45 days after breeding. This coincides with embryo implantation, a sensitive time when trying to get a cow pregnant. Farmers need to be aware that transportation stress may play a role in conception and pregnancy rates.
Herd health is an area that farmers need to look at if pregnancy rates are low. The farmers vet will have the best ability to diagnose herd health issues. Visual appraisal as well as blood work is usually needed to determine what disease may be causing failure for cows to breed and hold a pregnancy. Some common diseases that can result in abortion or failed breeding are Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) and Leptospirosis.
For farmers their good breeding cows are a valuable property. Proper health and nutrition that leads to desired pregnancy results. Farmers want to keep their best cows and for the most profitable suckler farmers it is important cows' calf yearly.