For suckler herds that calve down during August and September, breeding will be getting under way from the end of October.

How well cows are managed prior to and during the breeding period will have a major bearing on conception rates.

Outlined are five tips to managing autumn-calving cows through the upcoming breeding period.

1. Keep cows on a steady diet

Keep cows on a consistent diet throughout the breeding period, as fluctuations in silage quality and meal intakes will have a negative impact on fertility.

Remember, cows that calved in August and September will come into peak milk production around the same time as breeding starts.

Therefore, cows need to be offered a high-energy diet with adequate levels of protein.

Offering high-quality silage (70+ DMD) and 1kg to 2kg/day of concentrate throughout the breeding season should meet the cow’s nutritional demand.

2. Mineral supplementation

Feeding supplementary minerals is also recommended to boost conception rates. There are various methods to offer minerals and each one has merits. It is merely down to the most practical and economical option for your herd.

3. Parasite control

Healthy cows will be fertile cows and more likely to hold to service. Make sure breeding females are covered for internal and external parasites, as well as up to date with any vaccines used on farm.

Where cows have just been housed and breeding is set to start, choose a flukicide that targets the parasite at the early immature stage.

Mature cows should not require worm control, but first-calved heifers and maiden replacements will need treating.

4. Restrict calves to suckling morning and night

Restricting calves to suckling their dam is a proven method to bring cows back into heat faster. Cows will also show stronger heats and this will help pick up animals for AI.

Restricting calves to sucking for one hour in the morning and again at night does not affect calf performance.

Simply lock calves in the creep area between each feeding period.

5. Recording heats and service dates

Record as many cows seen in heat as possible, regardless of whether animals are served to AI or stock bulls.

Use this info to watch for repeat breeding activity. There will always be a few cows that repeat. But a high number of repeat breeders should be a red flag for a fertility problem.

When watching for heats, morning and late evening tend to be the best times to observe animals. Spend at least 20 minutes on each occasion observing cows.

Do not start pushing in silage or offering meals at the same time as watching for heats, as this will disrupt animals from exhibiting natural heat activity as they come forward to eat.