Improving the Breeding Performance of Cows

The biggest challenge facing graziers is improving the breeding performance of their cows, with the aim to get the cows back in calf within four months of calving.

A study by the MLA (CashCow project – a four year study involving 78 000 cows and 78 properties – released in 2014) showed that poor body condition of the cow before calving is one of the most significant factors affecting conception rates. The other factor is pasture quality.

The use of EasyWean noserings to wean calves can have a significant positive impact on both of these factors, says Gillian Stephens of EasyWean.

“Weaning is one of the most stressful times in both the calf and cow’s lives, with 90% of the stress of weaning being the separation factor. Weaning with a weaning device allows the calf to be weaned next to its mother. That means no weight loss for the calf, and faster recovery of body condition and reproductive capability for the cow.

“By managing the timing and reducing the stress during weaning, graziers can improve the body condition of their cows. The better the body condition of the cow post weaning and at calving, the earlier she restarts her oestrus cycle improving her chances of pregnancy,” says Gillian.

For graziers aiming to produce healthy weaner weights every 12 months, the cows will be advanced in their gestation at weaning and will calve within 2-3 months. Cow condition at calving is directly related to her chance of re-conception in a further 2-3 months, while lactating and feeding her 2-3 month old calf. By managing the timing of weaning, especially in difficult conditions such as drought, applying a weaning device gives greater flexibility on reducing the energy drain on the cow.

The importance of pasture as the driver of any beef operation is also well documented.

Pastoralists working with planned grazing principles manage for higher mob densities for shorter grazing periods, followed by longer periods of recovery for the pasture plants. The process ensures standing vegetation is grazed and trampled, liberally fertilised with dung and urine, and allowed to fully recover before the next grazing.

Splitting a herd into separate mobs of cows and calves for weaning complicates management of this process. Achieving the desired animal impact and ensuring adequate plant recovery, means that pastoralists working with planned grazing favour running one mob rather than several.

By using EasyWean noserings, cows and calves do not need to be split into separate mobs, allowing greater recovery for pastures and ultimately improved pasture quality and soil health.

The MLA’s CashCow project researcher Dr Geoffry Fordyce says “CashCow showed there were numerous factors affecting cow performance but undoubtedly the most significant was management of the body condition of the cow through nutritional management”.

With the MLA’s 2015 cattle industry projections (released 27 January 2015) indicating the Australian national herd will decline from a 35 year high of 29.3 million head, to a two decade low of 26.5 million head by the end of 2016, the need to improve breeding performance is critical.

“Management tools, such as EasyWean noserings, are available to help graziers turn their current breeders into more efficient producers. All it takes is adjusting management decisions to get the job done,” says Gillian.

For more information go to or phone 1300 327 993.