We are coming to the time of year when the cowherd is brought home from pasture and the cows make a trip through the chute for pregnancy check. Are you seeing good results in the 90 to 95 percent range, or were the numbers disappointing?

In case of the latter, now is the time to assess what is wrong and start making plans to correct the situation for next year, according to Doug Hawkins, technology support specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition. He lists several factors that can result in a low pregnancy rate including nutrition, health or the bull, and through a process of elimination the real culprit can usually be found.

For best results, start thinking about pregnancy checking a year in advance, he advises. “Once you preg check, there is not much you can do to impact results. It has to be a year-round focus.”

Nutrition – In many cases nutrition can determine breeding success or failure and is the easiest factor to manage, Hawkins noted.

The requirement of oocytes on the surface of the ovary occurs 3 to 4 months before a cow ovulates, he noted, so nutrition’s impact on fertility and conception is critical before you ever turn out a bull. It is important to meet a cow’s energy requirement.

“Most of the time, cows are lactating, have a calf at side and are trying to meet their own nutritional requirements,” Hawkins said. “The bottom line is cow nutrition requirements are high at the time of breeding, and cows need adequate nutrition to get pregnant.”

He listed three questions that should be answered in regard to cow nutrition – 1) Did cows have sufficient forage before and during the breeding period? 2) Were cows consuming mineral and protein supplements at target intake levels? And 3) Did the supplement(s) have enough energy to meet cow requirements? If the answer is no to any of these questions you may spotted your problem for a lower preg check rate.

Ensuring cows have what they need nutritionally on a year-round basis is the key to breeding success, Hawkins said.

“First look at your forage situation,” he said. “Whether your forage is a round bale of hay or you have cows grazing, make sure you have forage to meet a cow’s roughage needs.”

Then consider the cow’s energy and protein needs.

“Meet energy and protein requirements by using a self-fed supplementation program,” Hawkins said. “These programs allow cows to consume the energy and protein they need when they need it.

“Last but not least, you need to provide a quality mineral. Make sure cows are receiving the vitamins and minerals they need for breeding success.”

Finally, he noted that if  you want to try to achieve better than average breeding results next year, now is the time to strategize.

“Have a written plan in place to achieve a 90 to 95 percent pregnancy rate,” Hawkins recommended. “For the nutrition part of the breeding equation, cover energy, protein and mineral requirements. And don’t forget to plan other parts of the equation, like animal health.”

More information can be found at the purinamills.com/breeding webpage.