What can you do this year to better ensure that your herd has a successful breeding season? Tim and Chandy Olson, a South Dakota couple who have dedicated their careers to beef cattle reproduction, see several common mistakes that could be avoided.

Together, the couple handles 50,000-60,000 cattle/year; Tim has worked as a beef specialist for Select Sires for the past 17 years, while Chandy is a self-employed DVM through her business CATL Resources. Tim will typically artificially inseminate (AI) over 10,000 head of cattle in a 90-day period, and Chandy will ultrasound pregnancy test 30,000 cows.

Their services range from selling semen and providing fertility and ultrasound testing to turnkey synchronization programs including heat detection and AI. The duo works with beef herds in the Dakotas, Wyoming and southeast Montana.

Four common mistakes

Based on their experiences, the Olsons suggest four management mistakes that can easily be corrected to improve your herd’s reproductive success.

1. Slowly extending the calving season. Making excuses for cows that breed late and keeping them in the herd frequently leads to problems the following year. Chandy explains, “These cows have the highest risk for being disease carriers as well as being reproductively inferior to the rest of the herd.”

2. Expecting thin cows to breed. Cattlemen must recognize that middle-aged cows handle grazing pressure and lower body condition better than young and old cows. “If the body condition of your middle-aged cows is marginal, it’s a good bet the youngest and oldest cows will have difficulty breeding under the same conditions,” Tim says.


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3. Not paying enough attention to herd bulls. Although an annual breeding soundness exam is always recommended prior to the breeding season, there are other factors that are just as integral to successful breeding, the duo says. For instance:

  • Yearling bulls that will breed on pasture should be adapted to grass prior to turnout and should not be overly fat at the beginning of the breeding season.
  • Bulls should receive prebreeding vaccinations similar to the cowherd.
  • Fly control and vaccinations such as pinkeye and foot rot should be considered for the bull battery.

4. Not paying enough attention to synchronization protocols. Utilizing estrus synchronization and AI can be an effective management tool to increase pregnancy and conception rates. But, attention to detail in the synchronization protocol schedule and the correct administration of synchronization drugs is very important. “Poor drug administration can take a program that usually has a 90% estrus response rate down to 50%,” Tim says.

He adds, “Many of the producers we work with on synchronization programs have shortened their breeding seasons and have up to 90% of their cows bred in less than 30 days.”