Checklist: Here’s your complete pre-breeding guide

The breeding season is fast approaching and preparation is a key component to a successful breeding season.

What some farmers fail to realise is that not only is management during the breeding season important but management in the lead up to mating start date (MSD) is equally as important.

These lead-up weeks can be a very stressful and busy time; so to simplify the situation, follow this checklist for everything you need to consider before MSD.

1. Fill the shopping trolley

If you haven’t already done so you should consider ordering some straws, particularly for any bulls that may be in scarce supply this year or in a high demand.

By now, you should have also decided on what method of heat detection you are going to use. For instance, tail paint or scratch cards are commonly used.

In light of this, you should check what heat detection materials you may have left over from last year and order or pick up whatever is needed for this breeding season.

2. Put a breeding plan in place

A clear breeding plan will keep you on track and ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the start of the breeding season.

Your breeding plan should include your planned MSD for the cows and heifers. It is also important to have a planned finish date for AI or for when the stock bulls will be removed.

If the plan is to use stock bulls to ‘mop up’, you should include the date they will be let out to the cows and/or heifers.

It is also a good idea to include how and when the tail paint will be topped up throughout the breeding season – usually twice a week is enough.

3. Identifying and treating non-cyclers

Farmers need to be proactive in identifying and treating non-cyclers before MSD. The earlier you identify non-cyclers, the more options you will have for dealing with them.

Sample procedure for identification of non-cyclers:
  • Tail paint all cows intended for breeding three to four weeks before MSD;
  • The tail paint should be examined twice weekly and topped up when needed. Any removed tail paint can be replaced with a different colour paint or the cows can be left with none;
  • Any cows not cycling (still have tail paint) by MSD should be identified and recorded;
  • Non-cycling cows should be examined and if they calved more than 30 days ago they may need hormonal intervention and/or an antibiotic treatment;
  • Non-cyclers in poor body condition may need to be placed on once-a-day (OAD) milking to help them regain estrus.

In the lead up to MSD, farmers should also be on the lookout for signs of metritis. This is indicated through a foul smelling vaginal discharge within 21 days post-calving. Cows with metritis will fail to regain cyclicity and may need an antibiotic treatment.

4. Bulls to the ready

If stock bulls are being used they should be purchased in good time before you plan to use them. They should be sourced from a closed herd and vaccinated with the same vaccinations as the cows/heifers.

If the plan is to use vasectomised bulls as a heat detection method; they should be vasectomised ahead of time to allow them time to heal before they are needed.