Let’s face it… Ranching is a business. To operate, a business must turn some kind of a profit. In the cattle business, reproduction is one of the most important economic traits. More important than growth, production, or carcass performance. If a cow fails to have a calf on the ground every year, something is missing.
Reproductive traits are some of the least heritable in the cow herd, meaning that we cannot rely on genetics along to improve program success. Fortunately, when there is failure in a breeding program, there are management tools we can utilize to build for success. Identifying the problems and opportunity for improvement are part of correcting the problem.
Top 10 Reasons for Reproductive Failure in Cows
She cycles like a ninja (silent heat)
Sperm and oocyte cannot meet (blocked oviducts)
Failure to launch (cystic follicle that will not ovulate)
Bad behavior (cortisol from stressed cow or bad handling)
She’s not feeling well (disease, manage that health and nutrition)
Exposure to environmental toxins
She’s too hot to handle (heat stress)
She has a mineral imbalance (pay attention to clinical and sub-clinical)
She lost her calf (embryonic or fetal loss)
She’s not eating her Wheaties (nutrition)
Top 10 Reasons for Reproductive Failure in Bulls
Cows? What cows? (vision important to seeing estrus activity)
His penis looks strange and will not work (injury)
I’ve seen volcanoes cooler than this (heat stress, sperm quality, activity)
He’s not feeling well (disease, environmental toxins)
Scrotum looks a bit small (small testis – sperm factory)
The bull likes… Bulls? ( libido – requires observation to detect)
Shooting blanks (low sperm concentration, related to small testis or nutrition)
His sperm are weird shaped or have no tails (depleted reserves, poor morphology)
He needs a walker to get to the cows (foot and leg problems)
He carries a sign “Will breed for food” (under-fed and/or minerals)
This is just a short list of the issues we face when managing cattle and is adapted from a presentation by Dr. Neal Schrick at the University of Tennessee. More information about reproductive failure and how to manage those problems can be found from the Beef Reproduction Task Force.
What other issues when managing cattle reproductive problems do you encounter? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This is part of a month-long series of 10 Things to Know about Cattle. To read other posts in the series, click the image below.