Many farmers, especially in the western parts of the country, have been experiencing a dry spring and summer. These conditions are not optimal for reconception in cattle as the condition of cows will decrease after calving, or because they did not undergo an improvement in body condition at the start of the breeding season.

Lees dit in Afrikaans

The main result of synchronisation of cattle at the start of the breeding season, is a focus on the condition of the cattle. Bulls should not merely be put with cows. In such a programme, every animal is handled three times within two weeks and each one’s condition score is physically recorded during the first handling.

Cows that are in poor condition can receive additional supplementation to ensure that their condition improves and leads to reconception.

Activating the cows

Cows in sub-optimal condition will take 60 to 90 days before becoming sexually active again. This means that they will become pregnant very late in the breeding season or will not conceive at all.

When cows are synchronised by using a hormone-based programme, even cows in sub-optimal condition can be stimulated to become sexually active. The cows can then be artificially inseminated (AI) or the bulls can be put with them.

This approach has never been followed in South Africa, but was recently tested in a large-scale synchronisation and AI programme at ZZ2’s cattle unit in Limpopo. The purpose of the exercise was specifically to activate cows at the start of the breeding season and under difficult environmental conditions.

Valuable lessons

The resultant pregnancy rate will only be known during the pregnancy tests that will be conducted in May this year, but the project has already taught several valuable lessons.

Firstly, the logistical planning for synchronisation and AI has to be done well in advance in terms of the handling facilities and assistance by the support team on the farm. In the case of the project at ZZ2, both were done exceptionally well.

Secondly, a lot of emphasis and focus must be placed on the daily nutrition of the animals to ensure that they remain in an improving body condition for the following two to three months. According to the team of four veterinarians who performed the AI, all animals that were synchronised reacted well and came into heat, although some of them were not in optimal condition.

After our findings in May, in-depth feedback will be given regarding the results of the project and how this approach can be applied in the South African red meat production industry. – Dr Danie Odendaal, director of Vet Network

For more information, contact Dr Danie Odendaal by email on