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Angus Journal
Copyright © 2015
Angus Journal

Strategies to Successfully Manage Reproduction

by Troy Smith, field editor

STILLWATER, Okla. (Oct. 8, 2014) — Managing reproduction in the beef cow herd is serious business. That was the message delivered by Oklahoma State University researcher Craig Gifford during the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) symposium Oct. 8-9 in Stillwater, Okla.

Craig GiffordOklahoma State's Craig Gifford said producers must remember that managing for successful reproduction is a year-round process.

“Approach it with the idea that everything you do wrong can negate everything you do right,” stated Gifford, emphasizing that it is especially true with regard to estrus synchronization and artificial insemination (AI). He emphasized three areas of management that demand attention: inseminator efficiency, herd fertility level and management after AI.

Discussing inseminator efficiency, Gifford said the choice of a hired technician to inseminate cows or heifers should be made carefully. Herd owners should then communicate with the inseminator and adapt to the technician’s procedural preferences.

“What works for them works for them. Adapt. Don’t try to change them,” advised Gifford.

If a producer or ranch employee is the designated inseminator, Gifford called it important for that person to know their own limitations, especially if they don’t frequently inseminate large numbers of cattle. Arm fatigue can cause problems.

“I’d advise against inseminating more than 20 head per day, unless you’re already accustomed to it,” said Gifford.

Producers also must remember that managing for successful reproduction is a year-round process. By managing cattle well throughout the year, particularly with regard to nutrition, producers are managing their animals’ endocrine systems and the multiple hormones that influence fertility.

As rules-of-thumb, Gifford recommended managing spring-calving cows to achieve a body condition score (BCS) 5 by the time of calving. BCS 5½ is the target for fall-calving cows, with a BCS of 6 recommended for first-calf heifers (see for additional information on condition scores).

“Remember that body condition at calving impacts postpartum interval and subsequent pregnancy rate,” said Gifford, “and be sure to maintain adequate nutrition after calving.”

Avoiding stress due to inadequate nutrition or other factors is important to establishing and maintaining early pregnancy. Stress, said Gifford, can lead to higher incidence of embryo mortality, particularly during the first 42 days after insemination.

Gifford also advised managers to take care when planning and administering vaccination programs. Vaccination sufficiently in advance of administering a synchronization protocol and breeding is advised. Just because cattle are in a chute, said Gifford, does not mean it is a good time to vaccinate cows.

He recommended careful attention to label directions for the timing and dosage of vaccine administration. Keep good records, he added, not only for health management, but for all aspects of managing the breeding herd.

Gifford spoke during Wednesday morning's ARSBC session focused on strategies for AI success. For more information, visit the Newsroom at to view his PowerPoint or listen to the presentation.

Comprehensive coverage of the symposium is available online at Compiled by the Angus Journal editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.