Reproductive performance of beef cow herds in New Zealand

Reproductive performance of beef cow herds in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To describe the reproductive performance of beef cow herds in New Zealand and to develop reference ranges for assessing the reproductive performance of individual herds from in-calf rates, that take into account variation in the length of mating periods.
METHODS: Veterinary practices throughout New Zealand involved in beef cattle work were asked to collect reproductive data from seasonally calving beef cow herds mated in the spring of 2001 through to the end of summer of 2002. An estimate of conception rate (termed calculated conception rate: CCR) was determined for each herd, assuming that the conception rate was constant for each 21-day interval of the mating period. The algebraic relationship between CCR and in-calf rate at pregnancy testing was defined for mating periods of different durations and, therefore, given the in-calf rate and the duration of the mating period, a CCR could be determined for each herd. Expected pregnancy rates were recalculated from CCR data for a range of mating period durations to produce a look-up table for assessing herd reproductive performance. Reproductive data describing regional differences in in-calf rates and CCRs, bull:cow ratios, breed characteristics, start dates of mating and durations of mating periods were summarised. The effect of study variables in explaining CCRs was examined using a general linear model (GLM).
RESULTS: Data were collected from 1,005 beef cow herds distributed throughout New Zealand. The median in-calf rate for all herds was 91%, the lower quartile was ≤88% and the upper quartile ≥94%. The mean CCR for herds with complete reproductive data (862) was 55% (SD 11), the lower quartile was ≤48% and upper quartile ≥61%. Median in-calf rates for 2-year-old heifers (mated at approximately 15 months of age), 3-year-old heifers (mated at approximately 27 months of age), and mixed-age cows were 90%, 91% and 92%, respectively. The study variables that accounted for significant variation in breeding group CCR in a multivariate GLM were ‘region’ (p<0.01) and ‘date mating commenced’ (<0.01). The adjusted R2 for the model was 0.055.
CONCLUSIONS: The reproductive reference range produced provides veterinarians and herd managers with a quantitative method for assessing reproductive performance of beef cow herds compared with industry averages, from in-calf rates at the time of pregnancy testing and durations of mating periods.
KEY WORDS: Reproductive performance, calculated conception rate, pregnancy rate, New Zealand, beef cattle

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