Factors that influence the productivity of beef cows
Dr Vlok Ferreira, National Technical Manager – Ruminants, of RCL Foods, Molatek and Epol, attended the Agri-Expo on Friday the 12th of October to present a talk on “Factors that influence cow productivity”. He discussed the importance of understanding cow productivity; highlighting that in beef cattle productivity can be measured as kg per calf weaned per large stock unit mated (KgC/LSU). Dr Ferreira also noted that implementing an effective replacement heifer program may be a big challenge for beef cattle farmers, and is a challenge that needs to be addressed.
The topics that were covered include:
- Heritable traits that can influence cow productivity
- How improving cow productivity reduces environmental impact
- How the age at which cows reach maturity influences productivity
- Effect of body weight and body condition on conception rate
The Heritable traits that can influence cow productivity:
- Weaning weight of the calf
- Feed requirements of the cow-calf combination (per LSU- Large Stock Unit)
- The rate at which calves are born (indicated by means of inter-calving period – ICP)
How to Calculate Calving percentage and Cow Productivity:
Calf % = 100 – ((Inter-calf Period – 365 days)/365 X 100)
Inter-calf period: 420 days
Calf % = 100 – ((410 – 365)/365 X 100)
Cow productivity = (Weaning % X weaning weight at 205 days)/LSU [we assume that the calving percentage is equal to the weaning percentage]
Weaning weight at 205 days: 210 kg
Cow productivity = 0.849 X 210/1.45 LSU
Easing the shock of weaning
Removing the calf from its mother is a necessary procedure, but also one that unfortunately lowers the productivity of the calf. For the first 14 days after weaning, the calf will likely experience a drop in body weight due to stress and lack of eating, if the weaning process is not properly managed.
For this reason Dr Vlok Ferreira suggests the use of a creep feed, to ease the weaning shock. Creep feed is a way of introducing feed to the calf whilst it is still suckling. Getting used to eat out of a feed trough before being weaned is one way to ensure that body weight is maintained during the weaning process, as the calf will already be used to eating feed.
- The environmental impact of producing beef cattle can be decreased
- The results emphasise the importance of focusing on
- Identifying the reasons for low calving percentage, such as age at first calving; body condition score (BCS) and lick supplementation practices
Read part 2 (How improving cow productivity reduces environmental impact) here.