How Does Nutrition Influence Reproduction of the Range Cow?

By Dr. John Paterson, Montana State University. Adapted from "Ask John a Nutrition Question" column in Beef Questions and Answers Newsletter.
calendar icon 30 August 2006
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"...reducing protein or energy pre-partum had little effect on dystocia rates, even though birth weights were altered in some experiments."

Bearden and Fuquay (1992) summarized the effects of inadequate and excessive nutrients on reproductive efficiency. This summary shows that excessive protein and/or energy could have negative effects on reproduction. Often, there are questions by livestock producers who are concerned that excessive dietary nutrients during the last trimester of pregnancy may negatively influence calf birth weights and dystocia. Oklahoma workers summarized the effects of providing either adequate (not excessive) or inadequate amounts of dietary energy and protein on calving difficulty, reproductive performance and calf growth. The research was consistent in suggesting that reducing protein or energy pre-partum had little effect on dystocia rates, even though birth weights were altered in some experiments. Of the nine trials summarized, seven showed that increased energy intakes during the last trimester of gestation did not increase calving difficulty. Producers have commented that supplemental crude protein increases calf birth weight. Of the five studies reviewed, one study showed that excessive protein increased calving difficulty while four other studies did not show any effect on dystocia, birth weight, calf survivability or weaning weight.

Examples of Inadequate or Excessive Dietary Nutrient Intake on Reproduction in Beef Cattle (Bearden and Fuquay, 1992)

Nutrient Consumption Reproductive Consequence
Excessive Energy Intake Low conception, abortion, dystocia, retained placenta, reduced libido
Inadequate Energy Intake Delayed puberty, suppressed estrus and ovulation, suppressed libido and spermatozoa production
Excessive protein intake Low conception rate
Inadequate protein intake Suppressed estrus, low conception, fetal resorption, premature parturition, weak offspring
Vitamin A deficiency Impaired spermatogenesis, anestrus, low conception, abortion, weak offspring, retained placentae
Phosphorus deficiency Anestrus, irregular estrus
Selenium deficiency Retained placenta
Copper deficiency Depressed reproduction, impaired immune system, impaired ovarian function
Zinc deficiency Reduced spermatogenesis

August 2006

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