Simple strategies can help reduce pregnancy loss in cattle

Feed testing, good nutrition, exercise, 
low-stress handling, and biosecurity are 
all beneficial for pregnant cows

The best way to reduce pregnancy losses in pregnant cows is to take a multi-pronged approach. First, it pays to test both feed and water.

“It is surprising how much variability in our forages occurs year to year and season to season,” veterinarian Steve Hendrick said during a recent Beef Cattle Research Council webinar.

“It could be the same stand, but there are those yearly differences. Part of that is due to when we harvest.

“Even water quality changes over time. Periodic testing is definitely worthwhile. Use that information to your advantage and balance rations accordingly.”

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Be cautious with grain screenings, which can be contaminated with ergot or fusarium.

Monitoring the body condition of cows can also help a producer track the cows’ health.

“By the time of weaning, energy requirements have dropped,” he said. “That’s the time when if we are going to put weight on the thin cows, we need to do some sorting. Fall time is when we’re preg checking and weaning, and we can use this time for sorting.”

This strategy prevents feed wastage, and overconditioned animals.

Growing fetuses can take a lot of minerals from cows in the last trimester so a mineral supplement can be worthwhile.

“I’d like to see (minerals) in front of the cows all year round, but if you have to pick a time, start two to three months before calving and extend it as they start calving and lactating, to turnout and beyond, if possible,” said Hendrick.

“Producers are doing a better job of feed testing and getting energy and protein values, but I’d also encourage you to periodically look at a mineral panel as well in your feeds to get a better gauge of what you’ve got.”

Exercise is good for people and it’s good for cows too. Walking to water or around a pasture can help cows maintain muscle tone and promote weight control, which could reduce stillbirths.

Good vaccination protocols should be viewed as insurance, but work with a vet who knows both your herd and prevalent diseases in your area.

Proper livestock-handling systems reduce animal stress which could result in abortions or stillbirths.

Finally, biosecurity goes a long way. Bulls should be screened for trichmoniasis if they are in communal grazing pastures and dry cows that have aborted shouldn’t be sent to pasture.

Animals that abort could be infectious, and it might be a good idea to cull them, said Hendrick.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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