Let’s talk sucklers

Nutrition, health and genetics all play an important part in a suckler herd’s productivity and profitability, where optimising fertility is critical to the success of any herd.

Beth Howells, technical advisor at NWF Agriculture
Beth Howells, technical advisor at NWF Agriculture

With any livestock system, it is important to meet animal requirements whilst minimising waste. Ensuring optimal dry matter intakes is important when meeting requirements.

Monitoring grass growth in the summer and analysing silage in the winter can help inform decision making as well as providing the building blocks of the diet.

Grass and grazing management are key for suckler herds to ensure cows have sufficient and good quality grass.

As the season goes on, considering the growth rates and grass quality is important as it is likely that growth drops as grass becomes more mature, leading to a forage source which has increased fibre and reduced energy levels.

Also do not forget about those first-time calvers, they are likely to have greater demands compared to mature suckler cows as they may still be required to gain weight as well as growing a calf.

The hormones associated with fertility and nutrition are closely linked, with dietary energy status being a key factor limiting reproductivity when cows experience severe negative energy balance.

Nutrition before calving is as important as nutrition post-calving, particularly when managing metabolic disease.

Energy balance post-calving is key to promoting ovulation, where the last six weeks of pregnancy through to the first six weeks after service is critical to promote oocyte (egg) viability and embryo survival.

If excessive weight loss occurs, conception rates and cows holding may be a problem.

Beth Howells is technical advisor at NWF Agriculture

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