Get ready for breeding season
Although calving season may be in full swing, it isn't too early to prepare for the breeding season, says David Fernandez, Ph.D., Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Begin by making sure your cows and heifers are getting adequate nutrition. Cows in good body condition are more likely to rebreed early in the breeding season. They have heavier calves at weaning and a lifetime of greater productivity. If your cows and first-calf heifers are not in good condition when they calve, it's hard for them to catch up before they enter the breeding season; they may have difficulty getting pregnant, says Fernandez.
Plan which sires to use. Set production goals and analyze production records to reach those goals, advises Fernandez. Order semen from Al studs or line up leased bulls.
Schedule breeding soundness exams for owned or leased bulls if you are using bulls instead of artificial insemination. Each bull should undergo a breeding soundness exam. Veterinarians are usually extremely busy between calving and breeding seasons. If a bull is questionable, you'll have time to put a back-up plan in place as well as get test lab results from a trichomoniasis test, if necessary. Questionable breeders can be rechecked right before breeding season begins.
Update your cows' vaccinations. Ask a veterinarian if cows in your area should be vaccinated against vibriosis and trichomoniasis 30 to 60 days before breeding.
Check inventory of disposable supplies. Remember to order enough shoulder length gloves, latest exam gloves, insemination gun sheaths, extra O-rings, antiseptic and lubricant. Order estrus detection aids such as heat mount detectors, chin ball marker fluid and paint sticks.
"Nothing is more frustrating than thawing a straw of semen only to discover you don't have what you need to inseminate a cow," says Fernandez.
Check equipment and handling facilities if you are using AI. Make sure your semen tank will hold a charge of liquid nitrogen, the squeeze chute is in good working order and your AI kit is ready.