Improving Suckler Herd Fertility – Make more money and save labour on your beef enterprise

Quality Meat Scotland

Type: PDF
Knowledge level: Intermediate

Farm Table says:

Not sure when this report was written. Global benchmarking suggests we have a way to go to improve our reproductive efficiency, so why not have a sneaky peek to see if we can learn anything from the Scots! Simple, but the insightful table on how to improve weaning % and weaning weight can improve revenue on a 100 cow herd.

There are three parts to this ‘Improving Suckler Herd Fertility’ booklet.

Background to the importance of suckler herd fertility:

  • Best performers consistently exceed 95 calves reared for every 100 cows mated.
  • Cows calving in first 3 weeks – 65%
  • Calf mortality birth to weaning – <2%
  • Weaning another 6 calves increases average calf weight reared to 268kg per cow and heifer to the bull, an improvement of 17kg. Calf output per cow rises to £335, an improvement of £21 per cow or £2,138 for the
    100 cow herd.
  • The most effective way to increase weaning weight is to tighten up the calving pattern. A calf born in the first 3 weeks of the calving period will be heavier at weaning than one born 6 weeks into the calving period

Advantages of compact calving include:


  • Less time supervising calvings.
  • Fewer late calving cows reduce the risk of more difficult calvings.
  • Management operations on bigger batches.


  • Reduces risk of disease spread from older to more vulnerable younger calves.
  • Herd fertility.
  • More cows bulling at one time makes cows show heat behaviour more strongly.

Weaning weight

  • Calves born earlier are heavier at weaning than calves born later.


  • Compact calving results in more even batches of store cattle.
  • Finishing cattle sold faster if born earlier.

Replacement heifers

  • More calves born early increases the pool of heifer calves at suitable weight and maturity for bulling.

Benchmarking herd fertility

The five key principles for improving fertility:

  • Management of bulling heifers
  • Bulls – soundness and fertility
  • Managing cow condition and nutrition
  • Avoiding difficult calvings
  • Maintaining herd health
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