Not Just Genetics That Dictates Easy Calving Heifers

US - According to staff at Missouri University, breeding beef heifers for quality takes more than better genetics. It requires attention to details.
calendar icon 15 March 2013
clock icon 3 minute read


Dave Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef specialist, told what it takes to make Show-Me-Select replacement heifers Tuesday, March 12, at North Central Missouri College's Barton Farm Campus in Trenton. The meeting was a makeup for one canceled by snow.

"Many producers of Show-Me heifers have learned the importance of nutrition," Patterson said. "They learned they weren't feeding enough."

Before breeding time, heifers being bred for their first calf should be gaining 1.5 to 2 pounds a day. "In many cases heifers aren't big enough," Patterson says.

The "Missouri Recipe" for quality calves recommends breeding heifers after they reach 65 per cent of mature body weight. "Too many producers underestimate the size of their cows," Patterson adds.

The aim of the SMS replacement heifer program is to produce more live calves of higher quality. While calving-ease genetics is the center of the program, it takes more. "It is total quality management," Patterson says.

That includes selecting proven sires with not only calving-ease genetics but also weight gain and other traits for profitable calves.

Using proven sires is a foundation of the Show-Me-Select plan. That means a sire with enough tested offspring to show what the bull can do.

Patterson emphasizes that commercial cow-calf producers should not use unproven bulls. "You're not in the business of proving sires," he says.

It's not required but highly recommended that producers use artificial insemination so that they can use semen from proven sires. Top sires with good records are expensive. However, any producer can afford semen from the best bulls in their breed-when they buy bull power one semen straw at a time.

An advantage of timed AI (TAI) is that all heifers or cows in a herd can be bred in one morning. That cuts labor and produces a uniform calf crop, another benefit.

At the meeting, Patterson showed results from an early study comparing synchronized AI breeding with bull breeding. Heifers that were time-bred had 66 per cent conception, compared to 44 per cent of those bull-bred.

Cows are receptive to breeding in a narrow window of time. Bulls don't always arrive for service at the right time.

Synchronized breeding allows insemination at the right hour.

Research for breeding protocols was conducted in Grundy County at the Thompson Farm, a part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

In showing the AI breeding protocols, Patterson pointed to the timeline. "This is when the clock starts. If this was at 2 p.m. on Monday, 66 hours later, 8 a.m. Thursday, heifers are ready to breed."

At that point the cattle should be lined up at the breeding chute.

Later, Patterson showed slides of portable breeding barns for rent at MU Extension centers.

North-central Missouri producers get an extension on the enrollment deadline because of the delayed meeting. Regional livestock specialists have enrollment forms. Paying the registration fee holds a slot for a later decision on number of heifers to enter.

A heifer sale in the area this fall was discussed. That decision will be made later by enrolled farmers.

Gentrie Shafer at the MU Extension Center in Milan organized the meeting. She can be reached at 660-265-4541. Other specialists serving the region are Shawn Deering, Albany, and Jim Humphries, Savannah.

They have the two-page sheet of SMS requirements.

The Barton Farm meeting site is part of North Central Missouri College. The teaching facility hosts farmer meetings.

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