Monday, January 25, 2010

plan now for spring breed back

It's not too far from calving season and this idea from Beef magazine seems worth a closer look to help improve this year's conception in your cows. Providing the precursors such as linoleic acid, via soybeans, that can help with involution of the reproductive tract and improve the pregnancy rate is an idea worth considering.

here's the article from Beef Magazine ending with questions and answers about this practice:

I've been feeding whole soybeans to my cows for the past few years; starting about 45 days before calving begins,” says Jim Brinkley, a Sullivan County, MO, Angus producer. “We've noticed a boost in conception and pregnancy rates from feeding just 3.5 lbs. of raw beans/cow/day.”

Brinkley got the idea of feeding whole beans to brood cows from research by Chris Zumbrunnen, Extension livestock specialist; Monty Kerley, beef nutritionist; and David Patterson, beef reproductive physiologist — all of the University of Missouri.

“A few years back, I read a report in BEEF magazine about research with safflower seeds fed to late-gestating beef cows, with a significant increase in conception rates,” Zumbrunnen says. “Could we increase conception and calving rates in northern Missouri and Iowa by feeding whole soybeans?”

“Yes,” the Missouri researchers learned, but some work on the timing was needed. Most response came from feeding 3.5 lbs. of whole soybeans/head/day from 45 days before the start of calving until the cow calved. The regimen resulted in a 76% conception rate on first service, and a 93% overall pregnancy rate. By comparison, feeding combinations of corn gluten and soybean meal resulted in conception rates of 50-62%.

“Soybeans contain a fairly high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as linoleic acid), used to synthesize prostaglandins, which in turn initiate and maintain the reproductive process,” Zumbrunnen notes. “The study females were spring-calving cows in good condition, with an average body condition score of about six.”

Since Brinkley feeds all his cows soybeans, he doesn't have a control group for comparison, but estimates a 20% improvement in conception rate.

“We synchronize heats and breed all cows by artificial insemination,” he says. “My cows are in good body condition at breeding time.”

Some producers are concerned feeding whole soybeans (fat is the most concentrated source of energy) in late gestation might produce heavier birth weights and, with it, more calving problems.

“We've seen a slight increase in calf birth weight,” Zumbrunnen says, “but no increase in calving difficulty as a result of the increased birth weight.”

Other common producer questions:

Q. Aren't raw soybeans toxic to cattle?

A. Overfeeding soybeans can be toxic, but — at 3-3.5 lbs./cow/day — whole soybeans are as safe as feeding low levels of any grain.

Q. Must soybeans be processed into meal or extruded before feeding?

A. Not for cattle. In swine, however, soybeans must be processed or heated to destroy the trypsin-inhibiting agent.

Q. Aren't soybeans too expensive to feed?

A. Over the past four winters of feeding whole beans to cattle, the cost has ranged from 25¢-29¢/cow/day.

“Soybeans here now are just over $5/bu.,” Brinkley says. “That makes the cost under 9¢/lb.”(adjust that to $9.00 beans as of feb 2010 - JH)

Q. Can I feed twice as many beans every other day and get the same result?

A. “Normally, about 5% fat is as high as you want to go in a beef cow's diet,” Zumbrunnen says. “Above that, you risk nutritional scours. Adding 3.5 lbs. of soybeans to a grass or hay diet gives a dietary fat content of about 5%. I'd be concerned about going much higher than that in one day.”

Q. What kind of facilities do I need to feed whole soybeans?

A. “I don't use bunks or troughs,” Brinkley says. “I pour the beans right on the grass, and scatter them out so all the cows can get to them.”

Q. Can I feed lower-quality beans and still get good conception response?

A. You can feed small-seeded “BB” soybeans that would incur a market discount and still get the same response. You might not want to feed badly cracked or moldy beans.

“Although last year, I fed damaged soybeans that had been under flood, and I couldn't see any difference in pregnancy rate,” Brinkley says.

“We've consistently seen a 14-23% boost in first-service conception rate by feeding 3-3.5 lbs. of whole soybeans/cow for 30-45 days before calving,” Zumbrunnen adds. “Raw soybeans are a safe, effective way to economically supplement beef brood cows.”

James D. Ritchie is a freelance writer based in Lebanon, MO

see article here: (

Sunday, January 17, 2010

forget AM-PM

One of the recent meeting presentations in Orlando, by Dr Paul Fricke University of Wisconsin, concerned the very long-standing tradition AM-PM rule of breeding cows. I've seen for some time now the published work that once a day breeding works as well as twice a day. His comments emphasized that many of the cows that you wait 12 hours for to breed may be too late - why? It could be that the standing mount that you saw at 7am was the last one of her standing heat and she's actually been standing since 7pm last night. By the time she's inseminated 12 hours later, she's past the optimal period for conception. If you have to wait, wait four hours. But if you see a cow in standing heat, you can put semen in her right away and expect as good or better results than you typically have had in your herd.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 resolutions and wishes

here's a wish list for the coming year

  • needles ARE disposable and not collector's items!
  • see that calves get their modified live vaccine three weeks before the stress of weaning instead of the same day of(along with castration and other things that might just make that an 'injection' instead of an 'immunization').
  • dehorn calves by 4 weeks of age - put the scoops away
  • same with banding - if you can do it early - do so. if you're doing it later, don't forget the tetanus antitoxin
  • make sure everyone uses/knows how to use lidocaine/analgesics in these calves, especially if you have to scoop.
  • drag those pastures and break up the manure pats while there is still a bit of winter left - as good at reducing parasite load as many dewormers
  • plan for pinkeye - ear tags and good fly control, vaccines for some herds
  • see that calving cows and their calves get adequate selenium, whether orally with SelPlex or injection with MuSe/BoSe - it helps
  • plenty of fresh water for calves - dip a bottle in the bucket - do you want to drink it? you should!
  • delivering calves? scrub and be clean. lots of lube. it's not that much of a rush
  • big calf -using the puller? a dose of dexamethasone pre-pull can help with keeping the nerve damage minimized
  • and don't forget those vaccines - if you mix them up - they don't get better with age!
  • and finally, everybody likes new needles!

have a great 2010!