Cattle | Increase Conception Rates after Lush Spring Turnout

Cattle | Increase Conception Rates after Lush Spring Turnout
Travis Meteer, Extension Beef Educator - University of Illinois
Dan Shike, Animal Scientist - University of Illinois

During the winter most cattle are supplemented with dry forages, grains, and co-products. This ration is balanced and delivered to cattle. Then spring comes along and cattle are put out to grass. While green grass solves a lot of problems associated with winter feeding (manure, pen maintenance, calf health, and labor demands), it can, as Todd Gleason reports, pose nutritional challenges especially for newly bred cows.

That lush green grass forage has three major…
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That lush green grass forage has three major challenges when it comes to meeting cattle nutrition requirements.
  • it can lack enough dry matter
  • it is high in protein, but the excess can become a problem without the dry matter
  • and it is low in fiber
The beef cattle specialists at the University of Illinois wondered if this combination of problems has taken a hand in some of the lower artificial insemination conception rates they’ve seen in one of the three campus herds. A herd Animal Scientist Dan Shike says is very well managed, always in good condition, and thought be, well, right.
Shike :36 …turnout to spring grass coincided with our time of breeding.
Quote Summary - And yet, we were seeing our lowest A.I. conception rates. This happened a few years in a row. We thought we were doing ok on some the first traditional things you would look at. Then we decided we should consider the nutrition after breeding. We realized, with this particular herd, our turnout to spring grass coincided with our time of breeding. We started to point a finger there to see if that is where our concerns maybe were.
Shike, and Extension Beef Educator Travis Meteer set up an experiment to find out. Low dry matter and excess protein has been well documented by the dairy industry as a detriment to reproductive performance. The two wanted to know if a supplemental dry matter feed stock would make a difference. It did.
Shike :39 …the non-supplemented cows were pregnant to A.I.
Quote Summary - We had two treatments. Our control group was grazing pasture. The other group was grazing and fed four pounds of a mix. We started about ten days prior to breeding and turnout and carried it through for about six weeks after breeding. We looked at their bodyweight and body condition, but were ultimately interested in the first service A.I. conception rate. We did a synchronized timed A.I. At the first pregnancy check about 58% of the supplemented cows were pregnant to A.I. and 46% of the non-supplemented cows were pregnant to A.I.
A twelve percent increase is significant. However, Shike cautions he has just two years worth of data to support the findings. Shike and Meteer did a Facebook live video discussing lush spring grasses and the impact on cattle going to pasture that includes more details on conception rate work. Search Facebook for “University of Illinois Beef Cattle Extension”.