Using MGA to Improve Beef Cow Performance

Kasey Woolam

Using MGA to Improve Beef Cow Performance

Dr. John Johns

Even in this time of record high feeder calf prices, producers are not assured of profitability as all input costs have also risen.  Profitability of the cow calf producer depends upon having a high % calf crop weaned and optimum weaning weights while maintaining costs as low as possible.  Getting the maximum number of cows bred as early as possible after the bull is turned in is the best way to achieve the above goal.

Many factors influence how quickly the cow returns to cycling after calving.  Factors such as body condition, age of dam, ease of birth, age of calf and others are all involved in determining how quickly the cow recycles.  Dr. Les Anderson of the University of Kentucky has conducted field research demonstrating that short term use of the orally active progestin MGA will increase rate of cycling and number of cows that become pregnant early in the breeding season, thus improving weaning weights and rebreeding rates of cows.

Both mature cows (2,684 head) and first calf heifers (624 head) were used in this trial.  Animals were randomly assigned by age and date of calving to either a control treatment or .5 mg of MGA per head daily for seven days treatment.  Cows in the control group were fed the same amount of supplement without the MGA as cows in the MGA treatment.  Bulls were turned in to the herds on the day following the end of MGA feeding.  Date of conception was determined by rectal palpation within 60 to 110 days after start of breeding season.  Calves in all herds could not be weighed but weaning weights were obtained on 1,140 head.  Results of the trial are shown in Table 1.

MGA table

Cows fed the MGA became pregnant on the average 18 days sooner than control cows resulting in older calves at weaning time.  Ten percent more cows became pregnant during the 60 day breeding season when fed MGA compared to controls.  Expressing the differences as pounds of weaned calf per cow exposed considers both the increase in number of pregnant cows and heavier weaning weights.  Using an average Kentucky steer/heifer price for 400 to 500 and 500 to 600 pound calves for the market week starting 10/12/15 at Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington shows an increased return of $133.87 for each cow exposed when feeding MGA for 7 days and then turning bulls in on day 8.  Producers often ask if they will need more bull power if they do this and the answer is NO.  Feeding MGA for 7 days will increase cycling rate over 30 days, not all at one time.  Normal cow-bull ratios will achieve desired results. 

Based on current cost of the product, the 7 day expense per cow would be $3.50 for feeding 2 pounds per head daily of Burkmann Matchmaker Cube – MGA resulting in a net return per cow exposed of $133.61.  The Burkmann Matchmaker Cube – MGA is another example of how Burkmann develops products meant to improve producer profitability.


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