The main objective of beef cattle production is to obtain one calf per cow per year. The actions that can be carried out must be aimed at increasing productivity, which means trying to reduce the intervals between calvings to 365 days, which should be the objective of farmers. Achieving this objective, together with obtaining good calves, increases the profitability per cow.
Strategies to be followed to achieve this objective:
When selecting the heifers for the future breeders, we must choose daughters of cows that have good reproductive data (low calving interval, close to one year) and that have not had calving problems when they were born.
One of the most important characteristics when choosing the bull for both insemination and natural mating is the calving ease, in the case of insemination this has already been studied and in the case of natural mating knowing the data of their progenitors.
Feeding of suckler cows will be conditioned to the productive state in which they are, as the needs are different if they are in lactation (greater need) or if they are pregnant.
The influence of feeding on reproductive traits is very high, good feeding contributes to improve these traits. Good nutrition is the most appropriate way to improve fertility.
A body condition notet calving time between 2 and 3 contributes to a good calving ease and the time needed for the cow to come into heat is reduced.
A good supply of vitamins and minerals at the end of gestation will prevent retained placentas, uterine infections, etc. and thus shorten the calving interval.
Management at calving. A good calving facility will be conditioned by the age at first calving in which a good size and development is required to avoid problems and a good age in general can be from 30 months, calving time, the more time before calving they are out exercising the less problems there will be at calving.
Correct sanitary status with the corresponding vaccinations: clostridium before major changes in feeding, e.g. going out to pasture, vaccination against respiratory and reproductive syndrome (IBR, BVD, pasterella, parainfluenza and syncytial) and deworming at the onset of winter when the cattle are stabled.
The sum of all strategies, selection of heifers to be future suckler cows, choice of bull, good feeding, good health status, good calving management and good management all contribute to achieving the objective of one calving per cow per year.
The farms where this protocol is applied are Pyrenean suckler farms. The number of farms with around 400 and some 12,500 suckler cows. All these farms are part of the Pyrenean breed genetic improvement scheme led by the Pyrenean breeders association in Navarra (ASPINA).
The main challenge was to make farmers aware of the importance of following this protocol in order to achieve one calving per cow per year. For this purpose, information was used based on experiences gathered by both INTIA and ASPINA over several years.
Impact on farm performance
Impact on socio-economic resilience
The profitability of this kind of farms depend on the number of live calves per cow and year. This protocol does not entail higher costs but better governance in farm management.
Impact on animal health and welfare
Having well-fed animals, with a correct body condition score, means healthier animals. In addition, good control in the selection of animals with better fertility and calving ease means longer-lived animals.
Impact on production efficiency and meat quality
The protocol takes into account the selection of bulls by feed conversion rate, average daily growth, fertility and carcass yield.
Impact on environmental sustainability
This protocol does not have a direct impact on the environment but the fact that an indigenous breed is used in a semi-extensive system using mountain pastures on many farms contributes to the conservation of the environment.