Let’s face it… Farming is a business. To operate, a business must turn some kind of profit. In the cattle business, reproduction is one of the most important economic traits. More important than growth, production, or carcass performance. If a cow fails to have a calf on the ground every year, something is missing. Understanding the reasons for reproductive failure in cows and bulls is critical for a successful business.

Reproductive traits are some of the least heritable in the cow herd, but there are management tools we can use to improve our success.

At a Farm Field Day this summer, one of my professors gave these lists for Top 10 reasons for reproductive failure in cows and bulls. These are all serious things that we can manage in the cow herd, but we can have a little fun talking about it once in a while. Right?

Top 10 reasons for reproductive failure in cows and bulls
Hey, buddy… I think you’re missing something there.

Top 10 reasons your cow is open

10 – She cycles like a ninja (silent heat)
9 – Sperm and oocyte cannot meet (blocked oviducts)
8 – Failure to launch (cystic follicle that will not ovulate)
7 – Bad behavior (cortisol from stressed cow or bad handling)
6 – She’s not feeling well (disease, manage that health and nutrition)
5 – Exposure to environmental toxins (fescue endophyte)
4 – She’s too hot to handle (heat stress)
3 – She has a mineral imbalance (pay attention to clinical and sub-clinical)
2 – She lost her calf (embryonic or fetal loss)
1 – She’s not eating her Wheaties (nutrition)

Top 10 reasons for reproductive failure in cows and bulls
We cannot leave the bull out of the equation…

Top 10 reasons your bull is a dud

10 – Cows? What cows? (vision important to seeing estrus activity)
9 – His penis looks strange and will not work (injury)
8 – I’ve seen volcanoes cooler than this (heat stress, sperm quality, activity)
7 – He’s not feeling well (disease, environmental toxins)
6 – Scrotum looks a bit small (small testis – sperm factory)
5 – The bull likes… Bulls? ( libido – requires observation to detect)
4 – Shooting blanks (low sperm concentration, related to small testis or nutrition)
3 – His sperm are weirdly shaped or have no tails (depleted reserves, poor morphology)
2 – He needs a walker to get to the cows (foot and leg problems)
1 – He carries a sign “Will breed for food” (under-fed and/or minerals)

Reasons for Reproductive Failure in Cows and Bulls

This is just a shortlist of the issues we face when managing cattle and the order is not definite when it comes to reasons for reproductive failure in cows and bulls. What other issues when managing cattle reproductive problems do you encounter?

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