Early Pregnancy Can Bring Unforeseen Challenges

Picture of calves
University of Tennessee Extension specialist lends some advice and information on avoiding heifers getting pregnant too early. Photo courtesy of Pixabay​.​

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Obtaining a pregnancy in replacement heifers early in their first breeding season is ideal when raising cattle. While it is important to maximize the productivity of calving season, some drawbacks can arise. Justin Rhinehart, University of Tennessee Extension beef cattle specialist, lends some advice and information on avoiding heifers getting pregnant too early.

As a producer the main goal is to generate profit, but it can become increasingly hard to earn a profit when managing pregnant feeder heifers. “It doesn’t really matter if the pregnancy is caught early, the cost of treating the heifers, decrease in feed efficiency, and potential for decreased carcass quality creates a dramatic decrease in profitability,” explains Rhinehart. He adds that the number of pregnant feedlot heifers has increased recently, which reflects how much feedlot operators are willing to pay for feeder heifers that are not guaranteed open (not pregnant).

It is becoming increasingly common for producers to find heifers that are in their third trimester, when using the practice of timed artificial insemination to kick off the heifers first breeding season. Even if the calving is successful, it creates a cow and calf that are no longer in sync with the calf crop and herd,” said Rhinehart. There are a few ways to help avoid the extra cost involved in replacement heifer development and decreased revenue for feeder heifers.

A way to avoid extra costs is to set a defined calving season, this will help reduce the potential for heifers to get pregnant too early. Rhinehart suggests removing herd sires after a 45- or 60-day breeding season. “By removing the herd sires after the breeding season, it will help to keep heifers from the current calf crop from being breed by the mature bulls,” explained Rhinehart. Even in this case, Rhinehart says bull calves are also reaching puberty earlier and, if not managed appropriately, can be a source of the early pregnancies.

Many solutions can be utilized to avoid having the heifers in the herd getting pregnant too early. It’s all about finding which tactics work well in reaching the desired results.

For more information about early pregnancy in heifer calves read Rhinehart’s article on Early Pregnancy in Heifer Calves. For other information on managing cattle, check out UT Beef and Forage Center.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. through teaching, discovery and service. ag.tennessee.edu​.



Justin Rhinehart, assistant professor and UT Extension Beef Cattle Specialist,
jrhinehart@utk.edu, 931-486-2129​