Nutritional Management for Fertility

At this time of year, as we near the end of the spring calving season, attention turns to watching for heats, insemination, conception rates and overall herd fertility performance. There are a number of broader principles which we should be adhered to throughout the year which will result in improved fertility performance.

The body condition score (BCS) of cows is a key management tool which helps ensure that negative energy balance, an unavoidable condition in early lactation, is controlled and minimised. BCS monitoring throughout the year allows farmer’s to actively select and monitor cows that increase or decrease BCS throughout the year. Having cows in uniform BCS at calving (3 – 3.25) and at breeding (2.75-3) ensures fewer problem animals and improved fertility performance.

After calving, dairy cows milk yield increases at a very fast rate, however their appetite (dry matter intake) is much slower to respond to this increased demand for nutrients, and critically, for energy. The resulting situation is that these cows are said to be in a negative energy balance. Having cows at the correct BCS at calving, and formulating a diet that provides an energy dense, balanced feed for late pregnancy and early lactation (transition period) will help minimise the incidences of metabolic and reproductive disorders at calving, and prevent excessive BCS mobilisation in early lactation.

While it is normal, and often unavoidable, for cows to lose BCS in early lactation, it becomes a much bigger issue when cows lose too much body condition (>0.5 BCS) or continue to lose body condition over a prolonged period of time. These cows have been shown in various trials to be sub fertile, with less cows showing heat and increases in cystic and non-cycling cows.

It is well established that the trace mineral status of grass swards in Ireland is suboptimal; deficiencies of copper, selenium and iodine are widespread (Mee and Rogers, 1996) and the links between trace mineral deficiencies and reduced fertility is well known.  A proactive nutritional management programme should be put in place to ensure that mineral deficiencies (clinical or sub-clinical) do not arise, especially during the lead up to and during the breeding period (Butler et al., 2012). There are a variety of ways of supplementing minerals to cows in the breeding season such as with a concentrate supplement, through the water, pasture dusting, boluses, drenches and free access minerals.

An important point to mention is that it is imperative that you, and your nutritionist know all sources of minerals being given to your herd, so as to ensure that correct, and safe levels are administered.

ImmuBoost Fertility Post-Calver minerals from our ImmuBoost products rang provide a full complement of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements for lactating dairy and suckler cows and are formulated to help support optimal fertility and conception rates. For further details visit Own Brand Ranges – Nutribio Nutribio