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Professional Version

Overview of Management of Reproduction: Cattle


Jonathan Statham

, VetMB, FRCVS, DCHP, Bishopton Veterinary Group

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023 | Modified Jun 2023

Dairy and beef producers should strive to increase reproductive efficiency as a key driver of economic efficiency in the sector, but also increasingly as a critical route to more sustainable food production. Reproductive efficiency, or pregnancy rate, is defined as the proportion of cows eligible to be bred that become pregnant during an estrous cycle (~21 days), and it determines the calving-to-conception interval.

A major and realistic goal of every beef cow/calf operator producer should be to raise or market > 85 calves per 100 cows every year. Greater reproductive efficiency also decreases the number of cows culled for reproductive failure; collectively, these changes increase herd income.

Reproductive performance in both beef cow/calf and dairy operations can be improved by the following measures:

  • Properly identifying and managing animals to carry out proactive reproductive programs

  • Keeping records that enable the determination of important herd indices, such as percentage calf crop, pregnancy rate, length of calving season, culling rates, calf morbidity and mortality, breeding efficiency of bulls, and performance and production information

  • Meeting the nutritional requirements of various classes of production animals in the herd, emphasizing nutritional needs and cost efficiency

  • Establishing a herd-specific breeding program for heifer replacements and cows, using genomics and national indices to select breeding females

  • Selecting sires strategically, using genomic indices and performing bull breeding evaluations before breeding season

  • Adopting a health monitoring and vaccination/immunization program for the cow/calf herd, bulls, and calves

  • Evaluating reproductive failure and abortions

  • Providing adequate facilities

  • Ensuring that calves are well cared for at birth and receive adequate colostrum

Key Points

  • Cattle may be bred naturally or by artificial insemination (AI)

  • Improved reproductive efficiency should be a management focus as it is a key driver of overall economic efficiency in commercial cattle operations

  • Health monitoring including optimal preventive medicine for herds are essential

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