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3 Tips for Getting Cows to Cycle with Lower Body Condition Scores

3 Tips for Getting Cows Cycling with Lower Body Condition Scores

To ensure a successful calf year after year, maintaining your cows' body condition scores and reproductive cycles is crucial. Cows should cycle 40-60 days postpartum and rebreed by days 80-85 to sustain the profitability of your ranch.

Maintaining a body condition score of 5 is key for healthy cows ready for the breeding season. Cows with a score lower than 3 or 4 often stop cycling, resulting in extended calving seasons and decreased profits from fewer or lighter calves.

Start preparing for breeding season at weaning by evaluating your herd's body condition and optimizing the energy content of forages. This will set your cows up for optimal scores and improve breeding success.

There are three methods to get lower body condition cows cycling for the breeding season in emergencies.

1. 48-hour Calf Removal

Temporarily separating a cow from her nursing calf can jumpstart her estrus cycle, resulting in improved breeding success and higher pregnancy rates.

According to the University of Nevada, the natural hormonal processes of lactation and nursing directly impact a cow’s ability to cycle post-calving. Removing the nursing stimulus for 48 hours before the breeding season can trigger the cow’s hormones to start cycling. This method has been scientifically proven to work.

Additionally, this technique can be used to synchronize the cycles of cows with a higher body condition score. Removing the calf can effectively kickstart their fertility and increase the chances of successful breeding.

Of course, it's important to be aware that this strategy does put stress on the calf. They may not eat during the separation period, so it's crucial for beef producers to have the necessary fencing and facilities in place to care for the calf during this time. However, the potential benefits to fertility and pregnancy rates make this method worth considering for forward-thinking cattle breeders.

2. Early Weaning Calves

Instead of the 48-hour calf removal, consider separating the calf from the cow when body condition scores reach 4 or lower. Doing so allows cows to redirect their nutrients towards themselves rather than lactation, which can hinder the reproductive cycle.

Studies conducted at North Dakota State University have shown that early weaning can significantly improve pregnancy rates and give cows a better chance to rebreed during the early stages of the breeding season.

However, it’s important to note that this strategy requires careful attention to calf health and nutrition. Newly weaned calves require extra supervision and incur higher feed costs during the backgrounding phase.

3. Boost and Maintain Cow Body Condition with Bypass Protein Supplementation

Another method for adding body condition is by using bypass protein supplementation or crude protein. Crude protein has two parts.

  1. Protein is a crucial nutrient for rumen microbes, and low values will impact their ability to break down forage and extract nutrients. However, rumen microbes can only break down a portion of the crude protein a diet supplies. This portion is called rumen-degradable protein (RDP). This protein has been shown to improve intake and available energy. However, in early lactation, an increase in energy would almost certainly go to milk production and not actually help improve the cow's body condition.

  2. The other protein in crude protein is rumen undegradable protein (RUP), which isn’t ingested by the microbes in the rumen. Instead, this protein bypasses the rumen and provides more available protein to the animal itself.

This strategy aims to limit the magnitude of weight loss and supply more available protein to the cow with bypass protein. Studies show that pregnant beef cows supplemented with RUP or bypass protein had reduced weight loss. Body condition scores were maintained during calving for better and faster rebreeding.

Remember that excess protein of any kind can do more damage than good if not properly formulated to animal requirements. Animals excrete extra protein through ammonia, and this process takes energy, causing cows to lose weight instead of gaining weight. Always consult with a ruminant nutritionist before implementing.

Schedule a FREE consultation with a ruminant specialist today by calling 507-337-6916 or emailing 


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