Feeding for Fertility

By Alicia Sopatyk, PAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Tisdale

The post-partum interval, the time between calving and the first estrus (heat) after calving, is largely determined by the nutritional status of the animal and her body condition. During this time, nutritional requirements peak. Cows are expending energy lactating, repairing their reproductive tracts for re-breeding and meeting their own maintenance and growth requirements. To be productive and profitable these cows need to maintain a 365-day calving interval. Meeting her nutritional requirements at all stages of production, but especially during this critical time is essential for success.

Nutritional requirements for the animal are prioritized based on physiological factors: maintenance, growth, milk production, fertility and body reserves. If cows are deficient in energy or protein after calving, they produce less milk, often resulting in lower weaning weights. Cows in this situation will often also have subsequent difficulty with fertility. The two and three-year old cows that are still growing may also be subject to growth stunting in an energy and protein deficient scenario. The good news is that their appetite increases in lactation by 30 per cent. Providing a nutrient-dense diet will aid in returning to estrus in a timely manner.

Forages alone rarely meet the nutritional needs of a lactating cow. Depending on where your forages are lacking, energy and/or protein supplementation will be necessary to meet all requirements. Some examples include barley grain, pellets and canola meal. In addition, failure to provide adequate vitamins and minerals can result in milk fever and/or winter tetany and could have longer-term implications for the animal’s fertility. If herd fertility has been an issue in the past, consider switching to a different form of mineral that is formulated with fertility in mind. There are many breeder type products commercially available that focus on ensuring trace mineral uptake or custom mineral blends can be created specific to your situation. Remember to consider water quality when adjusting the ration and mineral program to optimize re-breeding.

Although reproduction is low on a cow’s nutritional priority list, it is at the top for producers. Ensuring the cow’s nutritional requirements are met during the post-partum interval is critical to the females re-breeding success. Monitor the condition of your herd throughout the calving and lactation period. Contact your nutritionist or your local livestock and feed extension specialist for assistance with feed and water analysis and ration services that ensure your females are fed for fertility.

Watch this video to learn more about the ministry’s livestock and feed extension specialists and how they can help you on your operation.

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