Managing herd reproduction on your clients’ dairies is influenced by many different management factors. One element that continues to play a critical role in reproductive performance is nutrition, says Gene Boomer, DVM, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition.

  • A tight-knit relationship. Research proves that many nutritional factors impact early lactation production and reproductive performance, including:
  • Transition health. Most reproductive problems related to nutrition can be traced to the transition period. Prepartum nutrition will directly impact postpartum dry matter intake (DMI), energy status and health. If cows get off to a poor start, you can expect reproductive problems.
  • Energy levels. During early lactation the DMI curve lags behind milk production, which often leads to prolonged negative energy balance. Repeat breedings, poor signs of heat and cystic ovaries can all be attributed to a lack of energy.
  • Metabolizable protein levels. Adequate levels of metabolizable protein are required prepartum to supply the animal’s needs for maintenance, growth, mammary development, production and reproduction.
  • Body condition. Thin cows don’t have enough reserves to maintain high milk production in early lactation and provide adequate energy for reproduction. Heavier cows experience lower DMI and often succumb to metabolic disorders after calving. Animals exhibiting large swings in body condition are of greatest concern.
  • Real-world solutions. “As a veterinarian, your job is to ensure animals are bred back in a timely fashion,” notes Boomer. Because many factors go into herd reproduction, use these tips to ensure the diet helps achieve reproductive efficiency:
  • Visit with the herd nutritionist. Open the dialog with the herd nutritionist to share what you are seeing when working with the transition groups. Observations of stocking density, feed bunk management, manure scores, weight changes, lying times and cud chewing are examples of information that bring value to the management team.
  • Review herd data frequently. Look at pounds of DMI prepartum, incidence of metabolic disorders, voluntary wait period compliance, first service conception rates and Week 4 Milk. These all serve as indicators of how well the herd is performing, both from a nutritional standpoint and in the breeding pen.
  • Watch transition cows. There’s no better way to assess performance potential than going out to the barn and watching transition cows in their environment five minutes after the feed truck delivers feed. One can quickly assess stocking density and appetite by observing how many animals are not in the lockups. You should also evaluate feed quality and mixing to ensure the ration is delivering the nutrients cows need to thrive.

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