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Why it’s important

A study from Texas A&M showed that reproductive rate is one of the greatest factors in profitability in a cow-calf operation1. Cows that calve within the first 21 days have the highest fertility and the greatest impact on profitability.

Industry Benchmark: 96% (63 day breeding season)

1.Lets get started

Measure the reproductive rate by doing pregnancy testing at the finish of the breeding season.  The number you are after is the number of pregnant cows compared to the number that were exposed to the bull.  A good benchmark is 96% bred at the end of a 63 day breeding season, which is three 21 day breeding cycles.  Ideally, cows will become pregnant after the first 21 day cycle.


There are three ways to test for pregnancy:

  1. Rectal palpation – this should be done 45-60 days after breeding, while the cow is in the chute or otherwise restrained. Human error is the biggest drawback of this method, and should be done by a veterinarian, artificial insemination technician, or experienced producer.
  2. Ultrasound – use this method for immediate results 28-35 days after breeding. You will need to hire a technician to do the ultrasounds.
  3. Blood test – this method is very accurate, and should be done 28 days after breeding and a minimum of 75 days after calving. You can take the blood samples for testing and results should be obtained within a couple of days. Individual ID for females will be helpful for sorting open cows once results are obtained.

2.Making Improvements

Proper nutrition and minimizing disease through vaccination programs will help improve fertility. Cattle with low body condition scores due to poor nutrition have lower chances of getting and staying pregnant. Providing quality pastures and preparing cattle to gain weight during the breeding season could help increase fertility and pregnancy rates.

Stress can also impact weight gain and body condition score. One common stressor is transportation, so avoid hauling cattle between pastures 4 to 45 days after breeding. This is the time when embryo implantation occurs, and is a sensitive time when trying to get a cow pregnant.


Please visit the Beef Cattle Research Program for a video and resources on body condition scoring:

Select cows that calve during the first 21 days of the calving season and bulls with larger than average testicles to improve your herd’s genetic fertility over the long term. Cows that are not pregnant at the end of the breeding season should be on your cull list.

3.Goal Setting

Please create an account to access the goal setting section. This will allow you to login at anytime in the future so you can evaluate how you’ve progressed. You will be given examples of steps you can take to help reach your goal, and will have the opportunity to indicate what your steps will be. Be sure to upload your completed KPI forms in order to access them in the future.

“Reproduction is the #1 key to a cow-calf operation.”
– Don Badour, Owner
DBM Land & Cattle

“We start calving between August 15-20 and try to wrap up by end of September. If we have 5 cows left to calve by mid-October, those calves will never catch up to the others when they are shipped. This is a difference of hundreds of dollars between the late calves and the others.
Your expenses are the same because you still have to feed the cows for the whole season.”
– Don Badour, Owner
DBM Land & Cattle

Additional Resources:


Cattle Buyers Weekly:

Further reading: