Preparing for the Breeding Season
John B. Hall
Virginia Tech Department of Animal & Poultry Science
It’s hard to think about getting ready for the breeding season when swamped with all the activities of calving. However, there are only 80-90 days between the birth of the first calf and the start of the breeding season. This time is important and often overlooked.
The first step in preparing for the breeding season is to keep the cow herd’s nutritional program on target. Cows need 25% more energy and 41% more protein after calving than in late gestation. For most of the forages in the East this means energy should be the primary supplement with some protein supplementation as well. In the West, protein is the nutrient that needs to be supplemented along with some energy. The only exception is new spring grazing, which will meet the nutritional needs of cows (as long as it is plentiful).
Cows that lose weight between calving and breeding are delayed in having their first heat and have lower first service conception rates. Thin cows that gain weight during this period have a good chance of rebreeding, but may breed late in the season. It is important to feed early lactating cows the best forage you have available. A balanced mineral supplement is also critical, as well as vitamin A.
Pre-breeding vaccinations should be given 14-30 days before the start of the breeding season. For cows and mature bulls, a booster of Vibrio, Lepto, IBR/PI3, BRSV and BVD should be given. A killed vaccine is suggested because some cows may not have calved when pre-breeding vaccines are given. However, you should check with your veterinarian on which vaccines and types are best for your region.
Heifers and yearling bulls need two doses of these vaccines 21-30 days apart with the last dose given 14-30 days before the beginning of the breeding season. Heifers should have already been vaccinated for brucellosis.
Pre-breeding season is also the time to make that last check on artificial insemination (AI) supplies and semen. Make sure you order your supplies well in advance of the breeding season as it’s sometimes hard to get these items at the last minute.
Make sure you have the vaccines you need on hand, a breeding soundess exam scheduled and enough bulls to do the job.
You should take stock of your herd’s genetic inventory as well. Are you using the right genetics for the industry? Are you giving up too much growth for calving ease? Would you be better to buy your replacements or breed your own? Is this the year to try AI?
So, between the mud and the chilled calves or while your waiting that extra 30 minutes to see if the heifer needs help or not, go through your pre-breeding checklist and get ready for the next stage in the yearly cow-calf cycle.
Second USDA Test Returns Positive for BSE
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on March 15 that the second of two bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) confirmatory tests conducted on an Alabama cow has returned a positive result.
Earlier this week, USDA announced that an Alabama cow was positive for BSE after receiving the results of a Western blot confirmatory test. APHIS' National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, which conducted a second confirmatory test, the immunohistochemistry (IHC), received positive results as well. Under APHIS protocols, if either the IHC or the Western blot returns a positive result the animal is considered positive for BSE.
The non-ambulatory cow was examined by a local, private veterinarian. The veterinarian returned to the farm the following day, euthanized the animal and collected a sample, which was submitted for testing. The animal was buried on the farm at that time. Consequently, the animal did not enter the animal or human food chain.
APHIS is working closely with the state of Alabama to learn more about the animal's history, and the results of their investigation will be shared with the public. All animals of interest will be tested for BSE.
For updates, visit the USDA Web site.
Hong Kong Suspends Beef Imports from Swift & Co.
Hong Kong has suspended beef imports from Swift & Co., Greeley, Colo., after a recent shipment was found to contain bones. The company says that the bone was a small amount acceptable under the U.S.-Hong Kong Beef Export Verification Program. Hong Kong partially lifted its ban on U.S. beef imports in December, allowing boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months of age with no specified risk materials.
Emergency Conservation Funds Available
The USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allocate close to $20.1 million in Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funding to 26 states affected by natural disasters.
ECP gives producers resources to remove debris from farmland, restore fences and conservation structures, provide water for livestock in drought situations, and grade and shape farmland damaged by a natural disaster.
Locally elected FSA county committees implement ECP for all disasters other than drought, which is done by FSA's national office. Eligible producers receive cost-share assistance of up to 75% of the cost of approved practices, as determined by FSA county committees.
Among the 26 states receiving the funding are Texas and Oklahoma, which are continuing to face drought and severe wildfire conditions. Texas will receive more than $3.9 million, while Oklahoma will receive more than $2.7 million.
Producers should contact their local FSA offices regarding ECP sign-up periods. For a producer's land to be eligible, the disaster must create new conservation problems that, if left untreated, would impair or endanger the land and affect its productive capacity. Conservation problems that existed before the applicable disasters are not eligible for ECP assistance.
More information on ECP and other disaster assistance programs is available at local FSA offices and the FSA Web site.
Johanns Comments on Meeting with Japanese Official
On March 10, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns met in London with Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Shoichi Nakagawa. Johanns says:
"Minister Nakagawa and I met for about one hour and had a good, candid discussion about our investigation into the ineligible shipment of U.S. beef to Japan, USDA's commitment to answer the questions being asked by the Japanese government and the mood within both of our countries regarding trade.
"I indicated to Minister Nakagawa that we received their questions and we are in the process of completing the responses. I also indicated that we anticipate submitting those responses to Japan next week.
"I am very encouraged that we are working through the questions submitted by Japan and identifying areas in which additional details might be helpful to the Japanese government. I offered to send a USDA technical team to Japan if that would be helpful in achieving progress toward reopening the border.
"I did express to him that I have been before U.S. House and Senate committees in recent weeks and Japan's halting of U.S. beef imports is consistently raised in both private and public discussions. I spoke candidly with Minister Nakagawa about the eagerness among lawmakers to resolve the beef export issue with Japan.
"We also discussed the WTO (World Trade Organization) negotiations and our desire to find ways to advance the Doha Development Round."
Report on Fourth Canadian Case of BSE Available on the Web
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a report upon the completion of the investigation into the fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) confirmed in Canada.
Contaminated feed is thought to be the culprit; however, the report states, “It is uncertain if such contamination is attributable to a remnant of the low level of infectivity previously demonstrated to be circulating in the feed system in this geographical area or a more contemporary occurrence.”
The affected cow had two calves during the two years before clinical signs of the disease. The 2005 offspring was located on the farm of origin and tested negative for BSE. The 2004 offspring was sold and died during its first year of life on the second premises, where its carcass remained.
To read the entire investigation report, visit the CFIA Web site.
Cattlemen Wish Norton Well
Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned on March 10. Terry Stokes, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) chief executive officer, wished Norton well in a statement where he referred to Norton as “a fair and honest friend to the livestock industry.” He says, “It is a rare and remarkable leader who can guide land management in such a balanced manner. We wish her all the best in her new endeavors and look forward to working with her successor.”