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Economic impact of infertility in beef cattle
G. Cliff Lamb, Carl Dahlen, and Mary Maddox

Beef producers need cows to become pregnant, deliver healthy calves, and wean productive calves to make their operations viable. The failure of breeding females to become pregnant directly impacts the economic viability of every beef operation, yet few producers realize how infertility impacts their individual operations. Infertile beef cows and heifers can fall into three primary groups: 1) cows that fail to become pregnant during the breeding season (usually 60 to 120 days); 2) cows that become pregnant but fail to calve; and 3) cows that become pregnant late in the breeding season. Infertility that leads to the failure of a cow or heifer to calve during the subsequent calving season results in the single largest economic loss to beef producers, because no economic return will be realized from those cows for at least one additional year (unless producers have multiple breeding seasons or a split breeding season). Cows that fail to become pregnant during the breeding season do not give producers an opportunity to market a calf, becoming an economic liability to producers.


Beef females fail to become pregnant for numerous reasons, such as anestrous/pre-puberty (cows and heifers that do not start their estrous cycles during the breeding season), disease, or sub-optimal management. In addition, cows may also become pregnant but fail to calve because they lose their pregnancy at some stage of gestation due to a disease or trauma event. Either way, the economic impacts of cows failing to calve are profound. Approximately 34.5% of all U.S. beef producers utilize pregnancy detection as a management method to determine whether cows are pregnant and use the tool to make culling decisions.


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Article made possible through the contribution of University of Florida Extension.

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