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What should I be doing to prepare my animals for breeding season on my farm?


While it may seem early to be thinking about breeding season, it’s actually a good time to start getting your plan in order to so that you and your ruminant livestock can be fully ready when the time comes.

The most important factor to consider when thinking ahead to breeding season is nutrition. You’ll want to make sure that the ladies are in good body condition as breeding approaches (body condition scoring is also known as BCS). Underweight or obese livestock may have trouble conceiving, carrying a fetus to term, or giving birth. To get off to a good start, you’ll want to make sure that everyone is healthy, even a little plump, but not obese. This might mean that you have to separate your herd into multiple management groups to reduce competition for feed, or supplement or restrict the diets of certain groups.

Achieving an optimal weight is also important for your breeding males. If they are underweight, they will not have the stamina they need to do their job and stay healthy. If overweight, they might not be successful or could cause injury when mounting females.

A quick check-up for the whole herd is generally a good idea before breeding season arrives. You may want to trim and inspect hooves, do a little clean-up shearing, or sort out young stock that won’t be bred this year. This can be a good time to make sure that small issues with your livestock don’t turn into larger problems when their body has high demands from the pregnancy. It is of particular importance to check hooves and leg joints before turning everyone out for breeding. Males can be hampered by injury or infection. Females will be responsible to carry additional weight during breeding and pregnancy. Small issues with joints, legs, and hooves can be aggravated and become much larger issues at a more critical time for your animals if they are not treated now. Make sure to plan this management early enough that your herd has time to recover from the stress of handling before you’re turning them out for breeding.

Another important consideration is breeding soundness. You can have a veterinarian out to check your males about 30 days before they’ve been turned out with your females. A few tests can help make sure that your leading man will be able to play his part effectively. Farmers and ranchers might consider having a back-up male available in the event there are last-minute issues. You can also put this male out just after your lead male should have completed his job. This “clean up” male can be good insurance, but may complicate your recordkeeping. Make sure that you record the dates that each male entered and exited the herd so that you can manage your breeding lines effectively.

Depending on the species you’re working with and your particular breed and management style, there may be some things that you can do with nutrition or management that will help promote a good and tight breeding window for your flock or herd. For example, a fence line exposure with a male can help induce estrus in your females. You’ll want to be sure you have strong fences if you employ this tactic. Also, “flushing” is a term that refers to feeding your females high quality feeds prior to breeding to improve their performance. While you want to make sure that you don’t induce obesity, this high-quality feed can increase ovulations and promote multiple births in many species.

No matter what your protocol for heading into breeding season, you want to make sure that your animals are in good condition and good health. Breeding and pregnancy can be taxing on animals that are in poor condition, obese, or dealing with other health issues. To ensure all of your animals have a successful year, plan time for observation, management, and treatment of little issues that could expound later when animals have more demands on their bodies. The work that you do to prepare your stock for breeding will pay dividends later in your season.

Posted: Dec 2016
Answer By: Lauren Langworthy