09-11-2021 - Will Balhatchet BVSc MRCVS - 0 comments
Beef newsletter - Breeding checks

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Yearling heifers - breeding the best

Now that the weather has taken a distinctly wintery turn and stock head indoors for the season, it would seem a timely moment to think about future breeding targets. Heifers are a fundamental component of any breeding plan; they represent both the genetic foundation of future breeding stock and a significant investment in terms of rearing costs. Getting the best results from these heifers relies on selecting the most fertile, efficient and suitably sized replacement stock for breeding.

A pre-breeding examination for heifers gives an objective assessment of how suitably sized heifers are and gives an indication of future reproductive performance to whittle down the best of the best. A comprehensive pre-breeding examination consists of two main steps;

1) Pelvic score assessment (PSA)

2) Reproductive tract assessment (RTA).

Pelvic score assessment (PSA)

Pelvic scoring provides an indication of how adequate pelvic size is, relative to predicted calf size. This helps select the correct bull for your heifers. It can also identify heifers that are likely to have a difficult calving. Crucially, the age and weight of the heifers must be known to allow an accurate estimate as these factors influence the prediction substantially.

It goes without saying that PSAs help to narrow down suitable breeding candidates, however factors such as sire direct calving ease EBVs must be taken into account.

Pelvic scoring at 12-13 months is a great way to target  breeding for optimum calving success whilst providing an early decision tool to get the best economic return on less suitable heifers, for example, as fattened stock.

Key breeding targets for heifers

  • Bodyweight: averaging 60% of predicted adult bodyweight at service
  • Achieve puberty (cycling): 60 days or ideally two bulling cycles prior to first service
  • Breeding age: to achieve a 24 month calving first service at 15 months
  • Timing: aim to breed heifers at the start of the breeding period over a shorter period (6-8 weeks) to capitalize on fertile stock and ensure heifers have the most time to get back in calf second time around.

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