Chelsey Saevre, MS, Cow/Calf Product Manager
Reproductive performance is the largest determinant of income in a livestock enterprise. In the U.S. cow/calf industry, embryonic and fetal deaths during pregnancy account for over 35% of the total number of fertilized ova resulting in a loss of a pregnancy, a decrease in dam productivity and reduced profitability.
Feed costs typically represent 50 – 75% of cow/calf production costs. Proper cowherd nutrition may enhance the uterine environment, making it more ideal for embryonic survival and proper development. Maternal nutrient delivery during pregnancy has been shown to program the growth and development of the placenta and fetus throughout pregnancy and later in adult life (Funston et al., 2010).
The first 90 days of pregnancy are important for proper placental and fetal establishment. Proper formation of the placental vascular bed is important early in pregnancy to support fetal growth, especially during late gestation. Improper placental development results in reduced blood flow to the fetus. Reduced blood flow negatively impacts the nutrition the fetus receives throughout gestation, potentially impacting calf performance long-term (Reynolds and Redmer, 1995). Vital organ establishment and development occurs simultaneously with placental development. The beef fetal heartbeat, limbs, pancreas, liver, thyroid, brain, spleen and kidneys are established within the first 20-25 days of gestation. Reproductive tissues are prevalent by day 50-60 (Hubbert et al., 1972). Maternal diet during early gestation may alter the function of major organ systems in the fetus, as well as offspring fertility and longevity within the herd (Funston et al., 2010).
Maternal nutrient demands during mid-gestation are lower than any other period of gestation. This phase of gestation provides a window of opportunity to put the needed condition back on cows prior to calving. Further growth and development of fetal organs and reproductive tissues continue to occur. Most notably, fetal skeletal muscle formation and development begins during mid-gestation. Maternal diet during mid-gestation may alter the development of production orientated tissues which may impact offspring carcass quality and producer profitability (Funston et al., 2010).
Two-thirds of fetal growth occurs during the last one-third of pregnancy. A rapidly developing fetus dramatically increases maternal nutrient requirements. Inadequate maternal nutrition during late gestation may have an adverse effect on cow productivity as well as calf survival and performance. Data would suggest that cowherds receiving a low plane of nutrition prior to calving will result in lighter birth weights and lighter pre-and-post weaning calf gains. Maternal nutritional status prior to calving has the greatest impact on mammary development, calf health, and rebreeding performance.
Proper maternal nutrition throughout gestation plays a critical role in embryonic and fetal development. Forage quality and quantity will likely vary throughout gestation, in which cows may undergo periods of undernutrition. QLF cow/calf supplements are formulated to complement forage-based diets and provide needed nutrients to support herd productivity as well as placental and fetal development.
QLF liquid supplements and Ignite tubs are an effective tool to improve forage utilization, meet mineral and vitamin needs and improve herd condition throughout gestation. Contact your local QLF representative to learn more about QLF supplements for the cowherd.
Funston, R. N., D.M. Larson, K.A. Vonnahme. 2010. Effects of maternal nutrition on conceptus growth and offspring performance: Implications for beef cattle production. J. Anim. Sci. 88:E205-E215.
Hubbert, W.T., O.H.V. Stalheim, and G. D. Booth. 1972. Changes in organ weights and fluid volumes during growth of the bovine fetus. Growth 36:217-233.
Reynolds, L.P. and D.A. Redmer. 1995. Utero-placental vascular development and placental function. J. Anim. Sci. 73:1839-1851.