Virbac Australia

Health Care

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Does it matter when a calf is born?

By Dr Matthew Ball (cattle veterinarian & Virbac technical services)

Some human cultures place great significance on the timing of birth in relation to the stars and seasons and in Thoroughbred horses a birth at the start of the year can give an age advantage at racing. But what about in beef cattle production - is an early born calf an advantage? Experts tell us very much so.

Two Australian studies followed heifers that calved early in the season with heifers that calved towards the end of the season. On average, early calving heifers weaned calves for the rest of their lives that were 13 kg heavier than the calves of herd mates who as heifers had calved late1. Heifer calves born early will be more mature and fertile at their first joining and will usually be in a better condition score to conceive again after the birth of their first calf. We also know that any calf born earlier in the season will have more time to grow and be heavier at weaner sales.   

There is increasing focus on tightening calving patterns to improve profitability. In a fertile herd it can be possible to have 95% of calves born in the first 6-8 weeks of calving. A tight calving span like this allows even lines of saleable cattle, better management and use of labour and a herd that consistently reproduces within a 365-day timeframe. Improvements to calving patterns can be made by:

  • Increased growth of heifers so greater numbers are ready to conceive when the bull is first introduced. Nutrition and persistent parasite control will influence this process.
  • Shorten joining periods as opposed to having the bull in year round.
  • Involve a veterinarian to advise on a reproductive synchrony program.
  • Improve early conception rate and reduce early embryo loss.

Trace minerals are required for optimal fertility. A trial studied the impact of trace minerals on calving patterns by using MULTIMIN EVOLUTION (containing copper, selenium, zinc, and manganese) at pre-joining and pre-calving. In the group of cattle given Multimin, 77.5% calved in the first 3 weeks and only 22.5% later in the season. This was in comparison to the control group without Multimin where only 65% calved in the first 3 weeks and 35% later2. Looking at current cattle prices and other variables, such changes in calving pattern could provide a return on investment of up to 10:1.

So how does MULTIMIN EVOLUTION improve your calving pattern? Scientists believe that strategic timing of trace minerals can help decrease the ‘hidden’ number of early pregnancies that do not survive (embryo loss). As many as 11% of cattle pregnancies may be lost in the first 6 weeks because this is a very vulnerable stage due to rapid growth and potential for free radical damage. Multimin Evolution has been shown to increase levels of a potent4 antioxidant3, which is known to fight free radicals and protect early embryos5.

MULTIMIN EVOLUTION INJECTION FOR CATTLE is a low volume trace mineral injection for beef and dairy cattle. Its proven formulation significantly and rapidly3 increases trace mineral status of cattle, with zero WHP and ESI. Seek further advice on how to use MULTIMIN EVOLUTION to get your herd performance ready before joining by contacting your local Virbac representative.

  1. MLA. (2013). More Beef from Pastures. Retrieved from MLA: https://www.mla.com.au/extension-training-and-tools/more-beef-from-pastures/
  2. Mundell et al (2012), PAS, 28:82-88
  3. Pogge et al (2012), J. Anim. Sci, 90:2692-2698
  4. Peng et al (2016), Sci Rep, 6:33300
  5. Ufer & Wang (2011), Front Mol Neurosci, 4:12

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