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Stackyard News May 06

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Boosting Suckled Calf Values with Better Fertility

English beef producers could boost suckled calf values by more than £20/head in the coming season at little or no extra cost by improving herd fertility, according to the latest advice from the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

suckler herd

As well as cutting the annual cost of herd replacements, better fertility ensures a compact calving period which, in turn, increases average suckled calf weights at weaning and improves both feed and labour efficiency.

Some 75% of cows currently hold to first service in the best recorded herds. This means 98%  calve within a 9 week period so that, at weaning, when the oldest calves are 210 days of age the entire crop will average 205 days. In contrast, the 40% first service pregnancy rate of the worst fertility herds means a 24-week calving period and average age at weaning of 182 days.

With a birth weight of 45kg and 1.0 kg daily liveweight gain, this represents an average weaning weight difference of 23kg - worth £23/head at a sale price of £1/kg. At the same time, of course, more compact calving means simpler and less costly calf management.

Suckler Herd Fertility & Average Weaning Weight

1st Service
Pregnancy Rate

Period for
98% Calving

Weaning Age

Weaning Weight *


9 weeks

205 days

250 kg


24 weeks

182 days

227 kg

     * Assuming 45 kg birth weight and 1.0 kg/day liveweight gain

Under these circumstances, the latest EBLEX Beef Action for Profit factsheet ( available free of charge at ) suggests producers aim for first breeding cycle pregnancy rates of at least 65% to calve over 90% of their herd within a 10-week period. Amongst other management guidelines, the Better Returns from Higher Herd Fertility factsheet recommends:

  • Using EBVs to select superior cows for breeding heifer replacements;
  • Using EBVs to select bulls with the right balance of performance and calving traits;
  • Maintaining sufficient levels of cross-breeding for the greatest hybrid vigour;
  • Checking working bulls regularly for fertility, health and activity;
  • Calving heifers 3 weeks ahead of the herd to give them greater attention and longer to recover before re-breeding;
  • Managing herd feeding carefully through the year by Body Condition Scoring;
  • Weaning calves from thin dams 45 to 75 days earlier than normal to give them time to regain condition ahead of the next calving;
  • Keeping good individual cow records and culling animals that keep returning to the bull or fail to produce a good calf every 365 days; and,
  • Protecting cows and bulls against fertility-compromising diseases.

link Quality Standard Mark firmly established
link £5.5 Million Boost For Beef
link A Taste Of The Orient - BPEX
link Fight to establish post-export price levels for prime cattle

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