Sarah Thorson, U.S. Beef Marketing and Education Manager, Genex
What if I told you there was a way to improve your herd genetics, shorten your calving season, produce a more consistent calf crop and increase marketing opportunities by making one management change? Some would be skeptical, but with artificial insemination (A.I.) you can do just that. When a producer is considering A.I. for the first time, cost becomes the biggest question (more on that later), but I would challenge you to also think of the financial advantages of genetic gain from using a proven sire.
One of the biggest advantages of A.I. is the opportunity to capture genetics from top, proven bulls. When you buy a yearling bull to turn out with your heifers, you hope he sires calving ease. You use EPDs, the animal's own performance data, and physical appearance to make your best guess. However, we have all heard horror stories about someone who bought a young bull they thought would have calving ease and found otherwise. Or what about the bull that was supposed to have a weaning weight EPD of 60, but it turned out to be 40? Using proven bulls ensures you actually get what you expect.
Another advantage of synchronization and fixed-time A.I. is the ability to have more claves born earlier in the calving season. At the University of Missouri Thompson Farm*, calf crop distribution was analyzed for the first 46 days over 11 calving seasons. There were three years of natural service breeding that included 526 calvings, two years of fixed-time A.I. with 585 calvings, and five years of estrus detection and A.I. with 1,040 calvings. On day 16 of the calving season, 38% of natural service cows had calved, 54% of the estrus detection and A.I. cows had calved, and 62% of the fixed-time A.I. cows had calved. By day 21 of the calving season those numbers were 51%, 59% and 66% respectively. When you consider a calf will gain two to three pounds per day, calves born earlier in the season add significantly more dollars to your pocket. In addition to heavier calves, a shortened calving season and a large number of calves sired by the same bull will result in a uniform calf crop. We all know this is more attractive to calf buyers.
Now back to the question, "What is this all going to cost me?" Calf prices fell dramatically last fall, however, early bull sale reports indicate the price of bulls has not dropped as far or as fast, with many sales averaging within a few hundred dollars of last year's record high prices. In fact, I believe it may be more cost effective to A.I. this year than ever before. When you add that to all the economic advantages of A.I., you have a recipe for success during a downturn in the cattle market.
*Taken from Control of Estrus and Ovulation in Beef Cows by D.J. Patterson, J.M. Thomas, B.E. Bishop, J.M. Abel, J.E. Decker, and M.F. Smith, presented at the 2015 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Conference.
Advantages of Artificial Insemination:
• Increased marketing opportunities
• Shorter calving period
• Consistent calf crop
• Maximizing reproductive performance
• Improving herd genetics
• Decreasing feed costs
Just how cost effective is A.I.?
At Genex, our field staff use a spreadsheet called A.I. vs. the Bull. It allows them to compare a customer's inputs for natural service and A.I. to determine what each pregnancy costs them. Call your Genex representative to help you run your numbers and find out how cost effective A.I. is for your operation.