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Beef Producers warned of pressure of dry weather on cattle reproduction

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South Australia's recent period of dry weather may place serious pressure on the reproductive performance of cattle.

According to cattle consultant Rod Manning, there are many opportunities for producers to capitalise on heifer and cow pregnancies within controlled mating periods.

"Nutrition is a major driver of fertility, which is important in southern systems where we expect to join heifers at 15 months and clave them down at two years," Manning said.

"If nutritional demands are not met, body weight and reproductive capacity are sacrificed first. Females need energy to switch on their reproductive cycle, or in the case of heifers, reach critical mating weights to stimulate puberty and cycle."

If producers are concerned their cows wouldn't reach critical mating weights, Manning suggests they should feeding their cattle early. Critical mating weight is the weight at which 85 per cent of a herd is pregnant within two cycles.

As a result of more focus being placed on higher growth rates for younger cattle, Manning highlighted that genetic selection had helped increase the critical mating weights of maiden heifers during the past decade. 

"They have to have enough nutrition post calving and adequate body condition to ensure that they return to oestrus quickly enough to get back in calf," Manning said

"In severe dry conditions, calves can be weaned at a minimum of 100-120 days old and about 120kg but you need to be a very good nutritional manager to attempt this." 

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