With the breeding season soon getting into action in spring-calving suckler herds, farmers need to look at the condition of their cows coming up to breeding time.

A cow’s reproductive efficiency is primarily judged by how quickly she can return to heat post-calving and conception can be achieved.

Research conducted by Teagasc has shown that cows which have a good body condition will come into heat quicker after calving than those with poor condition. 

One of the biggest factors that will influence the cow’s condition at mating and return to heat, is her condition when she is calving down.

If a cow is calved down with a body conditional score (BCS) of 2.5-3.0, she has a better chance of cycling quicker than a cow that had a BCS lower than 2.5.

Therefore, these cows with a low BCS will need an extra bit of minding and TLC, such as the feeding of concentrates, to get them into that category between 2.5-3.0 BCS.

Hopefully this should get them to a stage where they will be on heat again.

Restricting access to suckling

One method of aiding a cow’s return to heat is by restricting access to suckling. However, this can be a challenging technique to practice if the cows are not housed.

Teagasc has stated that by completing this practice, cows have come into heat seven to 10 days after this practice starts – around 30 days out from calving.

Pre-breeding scanning of suckler cows

Pre-breeding scanning is not something that is carried out on every suckler herd prior to mating – however it may be an option for cows that farmers have concerns about before mating.

These cows may include cows that had a difficult calving, had metritis appearing from their vulva and required a ‘wash-out’, or cows that retained their placenta after calving.

By conducting a pre-service scan of these cows, it will provide some peace of mind that they are ‘okay’ in a reproductive sense.