Breeding heifers

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Poorman

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I am newer to beef cows having spent most of my time working on dairies. In the spring I teamed up with an aging neighbor to start running a beef herd. We bought 18 yearling commercial black heifers at a local sale. We gave them 6 weeks on pasture with free mineral blocks and 15-17 pounds of corn silage per head per day before adding a proven 3-4 year old bull. The bull was with them for 93 days. After removing the bull we waited 35 days and blood tested for pregnancy where we had 4open. Also should mention the body condition of the heifers is 5-5.5.
What is your guys thought on why so many didn’t get bred? We’re they too young? Or do you see any concerns on our management of this group to get them breeding?
Thank you for any input
 

Lazy M

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The only changes I would suggest would be change from blocks to bagged mineral and have the vet pelvic measure the heifers before breeding. During the pelvic check, the vet may have been able to identify if any were free martins or had issues that wouldn't have made them suitable for breeding.
Some just don't work, though, and hopefully they put on enough weight so that you'll make a little $ on the resell.
 

J+ Cattle

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You said they are yearling heifers that you bought at the local sale, do you know the true age of the heifers or is this a guess? Also what breed are they and what are they weighing. Some breeds are slower maturing and therefore won't cycle until a little older. I will breed Angus heifers at around 15 months of age to calve as a 2 year old. They should also weigh at least 60% of their mature weight at breeding and then feed them to keep them growing through pregnancy but not to get them fat. Since 14 out of 18 were able to get pregnant under your management I think I would just take the 4 opens and sell them as feeders or feed for your own freezer, don't waste any more time or money on them for breeding. They could have a lower fertility than the others and if that's the case they will likely breed back later each year.
 

Son of Butch

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14 pg of 18 exposed = 77.8% pg rate
17 expected pg of 18 = 94.4% expected

IF bought at your local sale barn, I expect the owner sorted off his best most fertile heifers for himself. In addition perhaps 1 or 2 born twin to a bull might have been put in the group. When working with a small number of animals just a couple of them can really skew the percentages. I agree with LazyM's suggestion of bagged mineral. Otherwise, don't think it's your fault. Unless the 4 were smaller I doubt they were too young. More background information when buying/selecting is always helpful.

Knowing the seller or whether they are prone to lax management is a red flag, leading to another possibility - inbreeding lowers fertility.
IF heifers in the group resulted from 1/2 brother x sister mating or sire x daughter that could well be the reason for less than a 90% group pregnancy rate.
 
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Rafter S

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In addition to the comments above about loose mineral instead of blocks, keep in mind that that's just mineral, and not salt (at least in my part of the country). I always keep out both loose mineral and loose salt.

About the mineral blocks, sometimes they can't get enough from licking those, and low minerals can affect fertility. However, since 14 of 18 stuck I doubt that was the problem. They might have just been too young, or may just genetically not be very fertile.
 

Dsth

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having the vet preg check instead of the blood test would have determined how spread out the bred heifers are. 14 settled on first service would indicate poor fertility in the open heifers. If you have one or two bred on each cycle, I would look at bull problems even though he was a proven bull. with the bull in for 93 days and average cycle for cattle being 18-24 days, some heifers may have cycled up to 5 times. previous post have given you good advise on other possible problems.
 
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Poorman

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Thank you for the replies, after getting those results back mineral was my first though and I have had the girls on vitaferm cattleman’s blend. I do not know their age, we bought them at in 3 groups with the lightest ones being 747lbs. If not minerals being young was my second my thought but assumed they would be good at 800+.
Do any of you guys have any experience with dna tests to tell fertility? I was thinking of trying that on the 4 and a another 13 yearlings we picked up this week.
Feeding out is not really an option at this time due to limited space and high corn cost.
 

J+ Cattle

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Do any of you guys have any experience with dna tests to tell fertility?
Zoetis and others will be happy to take your money for DNA testing but my experience their fertility numbers don't reflect reality in my small herd. Don't waste your money on it.
At 800+ pounds size and age should be okay, sell the open heifers and save yourself future problems.
For the 13 new heifers shorten the time exposed to the bull to 75 days and cull any opens afterwards to select the most fertile ones. A 75 day time period would give each heifer 3-4 chances to get settled.
 

Son of Butch

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Do any of you guys have any experience with dna tests to tell fertility? I was thinking of trying that on the 4....
Feeding out is not really an option at this time....
No, and don't waste money and time on the 4 known problem breeders.
They have identified themselves as trouble. Sell them as feeders ASAP.
No excuses. The sooner you learn ruthless culling, the sooner problems disappear.
 
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MurraysMutts

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No, and don't waste money and time on the 4 known problem breeders.
They have identified themselves as trouble. Sell them as feeders ASAP.
No excuses. The sooner you learn ruthless culling, the sooner problems disappear.
In this case I agree!

Tho I've done just the opposite b4, I wouldve been way ahead by listening in some cases.
 

faster horses

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I would like to see them in a better body score this time of year. It's cheaper to winter a cow in body score of 6 going in. If they lose a body score during winter (and that's a possibility where winters are cold) they would still be body score 5 when calving. Body score of 4.5 is too low. 80# makes up one body score, up or down. So if you can get yours to body score of 6 going in, they could lose 80# during the winter and calve at a body score of 5. It is costly to put weight on cattle in winter time in cold climates.

Never keep a yearling heifer that doesn't breed the first time you breed them. Like Lazy M said, just take them to the sale. Loose mineral is better than blocks. They get tired of licking and walk away before their mineral requirements are met.

Good luck to you. Hang in there.

P.S. 93 day breeding season is too long. I'd cut them to 30 days. That gives them over one heat cycle. You will love it next calving season. 30 days and DONE!
 

gcreekrch

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Our heifers are a very green 550 to 650 lbs going to grass in late May. They have 5 weeks to be on the gain before bulls go out. Bulls in for 30 to 40 days depending on what else we have going on when we want to pull them. Those that want to stay here are bred, no tears shed and all the opens are gone next day after testing. We use light bw bulls and the only thing we expect a heifer to do first year is bring home a calf. Extra feeding only costs money and gives cattle an edge they won’t have the rest of their lives.
 
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Poorman

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Well thank you for the replies, looks like they will be on the trailer Tuesday for a new home. I appreciate the help, like I said I come from a dairy background so I’m learning where I can cut cost and where I can not with beef.
So it looks like we will be trying to put some more weight on the bred cows and With the next group we will shoot for breeding 750-800 lbs for 45days.
 

Son of Butch

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Zoetis and others will be happy to take your money for DNA testing but my experience their fertility numbers don't reflect reality in my small herd. Don't waste your money on it.
According to Angus Association heritability chart:
Heifer pregnancy is 15% inherited (85% environment) the 2nd lowest heritable trait.
So I agree with J+ don't waste your money DNA testing commercial heifers for it.

By the by, Scrotal Circumference is 45% heritable and correlates to bull fertility.
 

Steve123

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Don't purchase any replacement females at a sale barn. Unless it is a special bred heifer sale and even then you are taking a chance on what they are bred to.

Find a local breeder or production sale to purchase your replacements. They will come with a reasonable fertility guarantee. Same thing applies with purchasing a bull.

Start off right and you can keep your own replacements and maybe even sell a few extras. I wouldn't keep anything that didn't have a lot of history.
 

Dave

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For years I bought sale barn heifers and bred them at about 800 pounds. I did timed AI and clean up bulls. Always much better % bred than you had. I would check those 4 opens once again. It is possible that you or the lab messed up some how with the sample. If they come back open again they would be on the first trailer to the sale barn. I have bought free martins, ones with a cyst, and other reasons they wouldn't breed. I got to the point of having them checked before breeding. Ones with an identified issue got shipped.
 

KAstocker

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When I sold calves at the sale barn a few weeks ago, there was a load of some really nice replacement quality heifers there - 700 pounders that brought $1.55. They were pretty.
 

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