Reproduction performance of beef cattle mated naturally following synchronization in the Central Bushveld bioregion of South Africa
The estimated calving percentage of beef cattle is 62% in the commercial sector of South Africa. Fertility is regarded as the main component influencing total herd efficiency in beef cattle. If the long calving seasons can be shortened and the calving percentage increased, more and heavier calves with a more uniform age can be weaned. Cows calving earlier in the season also have an extended “recovery period” and have the opportunity to calve in a better body condition during the next season, compared to cows calving late in the season. Cows that calve early also have a better chance of conceiving in the next breeding season and are generally seen as the more fertile animals. Research has been undertaken to evaluate the effect of oestrous synchronization followed by natural mating on the calving rate and calving distribution of multiparous beef cows. In this trial Bonsmara cows were mated naturally after synchronization over a period of four years (2009 - 2012) in an extensive production system on natural sour-mixed bushveld. The synchronized cows calved earlier during the 2009 calving season and cows in anoestrus started cycling again. The average days-to-calving after the start of the breeding season was 243 days for the synchronized cows and 267 for the non-synchronized cows. The calves born from the synchronized cows were therefore, on average, 24 days older than the calves born from the non-synchronized cows. From 2010 onwards the difference declined and it seems the biggest effect was obtained during the first year of synchronization.
Keywords: Beef cattle, Marikana thorn veld, natural mating, oestrous synchronization