Estrous Synchronization Can Maximize Cow-Calf Profits


Implementing an estrous synchronization program in a cow-calf operation is a decision that can be a simple move to help maximize profits. However, it can seem like a daunting task. Dr. Joe Gillespie is a veterinarian with Boehringer-Ingelheim. He says the rewards of heavier calves and improved calving rates begin with shorter calving windows, which gives them more time to grow.

“As we think about calves being conceived earlier or in a smaller window, it does produce value. Historically, we have a calf that’s born on the first day of a short calving season versus a calf born on the 60th day or the last day season, we can increase that value of the calf just in age and days on feed up to about 100 dollars or so. And then the other thing we see with estrous synchronization is improved conception. Ultimately, if you’re using a technology like artificial insemination along with your synchronization program, you can manage your labor a little more effectively.”

Gillespie says a cow-calf synchronization program doesn’t have to be complicated, and herd size doesn’t matter either.

“You can synchronize cattle using a program to create more animals that are receptive or shorten the cycle period. It could be as simple as using a single prostaglandin injection administered to cows running with the bull within four or five days of turning the bull out to bring somewhere around 50 percent of the animals into estrous at that period, which potentially shortens your calving window. But it could also, if you manage it correctly, using one or two prostaglandin shots, or making it more complicated using different reproductive tools, can be very effective for allowing a third-party AI technician to come in and improve the fertility as well as the effectiveness of whatever program you have.”

He says implementing a new synchronization protocol starts with figuring out if your animal health program fits with synchronization.

“Do you have a good nutrition regimen? Have you evaluated those things before you start down the process of introducing a new synchronization program? And then finally, if you think about what type of program that you’re willing to implement, make sure that you’re willing to follow the compliance recommendations so that the program is successful. Because if you don’t fulfill the requirements of that particular program effectively, that program may not create value for you at all, just expense. And then, ultimately, choose proven products that are backed by good company support, with the recommendation of your veterinarian.”

Several herd-management practices will lay the foundation for reproductive success. It starts with good cattle nutrition at the beginning of the reproductive program.

“Have you effectively created a program around vaccination against the reproductive diseases or threats that you may have in your herd? Then, parasites, internal ones specifically, have a very serious impact on the body long-term. It could be as simple as weight gain when we talk about calves that in a reproducing cow could be a weakened immune system, it could be a reduction in reproductive function or the ability for those animals to cycle. It could also be impacting direct fertility or conception. And then, finally, as you think about bulls, or how you’re going to manage bulls through natural service or artificial insemination, making sure that your natural service bulls have been through a proper breeding soundness exam and they are in a good nutritional plane and a good vaccination protocol is in place, or utilize artificial insemination and genetics that show the ability to create fertility.”

He says all of these conversations need to take place with your local veterinarian, who is in the best place to advise producers on their herd health.