Improve your cattle genetics through AI
Every stockman wants a better cowherd. Artificial insemination is a good tool for some ranchers to get there.
Bruce Carpenter, Texas AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Fort Stockton, says AI allows progress in a herd quickly — when done right. But first, he cautions, beef producers must decide why AI can fit in with their particular operation, and then answer three basic questions:
• Do you have the resources for AI?
• Do you have the finances for AI?
• Do you need AI?
No two cattle operations are the same. But some clearly need AI.“In the seedstock business, you need to use AI to stay competitive,” Carpenter told those gathered at Halfmann Red Angus ranch for the recent Genex Field Day at Miles, Texas.
The progress becomes evident. “You can see some big changes over four or five years through heifers,” the specialist notes.
• AI can help improve a herd’s genetic traits quickly if done right.
• Today’s seedstock business needs AI just to stay competitive.
• Producers should consider several factors before employing AI.
Some cows don’t come back into heat after calving for 40 or 50, or even 60 days. Using AI with synchronized females can help tighten the breeding window.
That, in turn, will lead to a more uniform calving season.Carpenter says, as a rule of thumb, heifers 14 to 16 months old should be ready for breeding, except for Bos indicus cattle (i.e., Brahmans) where heifers may need to be 18 months before being old enough to breed.
Or another guideline would require heifers to be at about 65% of their expected mature weight before being bred. Good semen and tank, and skilled technicians are essential.
Making it work
Cody Halfmann has traveled from his Texas home to Australian ranches to hone beef management skills.
“Our goal is to raise good breeding stock, mostly bulls, from a purebred Red Angus operation that will work for the commercial cattleman,” Halfmann says.
The cattle have to exhibit functionality and adaptability to their environment, which can be harsh in West Texas, just like it can be in Australia.
Halfmann says through using AI, the ranch keeps its goal of a calving season within a 60-day window. In fact, some 60% to 70% of Halfmann females calve within just a few days of one another. He notes the ranch does run a cleanup bull after AI to ensure cows are impregnated.
The Halfmann ranch has wheat and grass, and its own feeding program. Halfmann says cattle generally get 80% of their feed requirements as forage and the balance in grain. “There’s no extra feed or pampering with our cattle,” he says.
The operation looks at expected progeny differences, or EPDs, for traits such as easy calving, growth and carcass. Ultrasound can help point out cattle with good rib eye and marbling for performance data.
Getting an AI edge
Stan Lock, area sales manager for Genex Cooperative Inc., Republic, Mo., grew up on a commercial cow-calf operation in Kansas and did his first AI work 40 years ago, and by the 1980s was working on heat-synchronizing females.
Nowadays, his vast territory stretches from New Mexico to Florida and up to Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. “AI means higher genetic value through using better bulls,” Lock says. So sire selection, consulting and cattle handling all are part of it.
Total cost of AI can range from about $30 to $50 per head, largely depending on the semen cost and labor. Genex operates schools to train producers, with day and evening classes.
“We can’t breed everybody’s cows, so we need to train some people,” Lock says. To learn more about AI and whether it might fit your herd, you can reach Lock at 800-333-9007 or by email to email@example.com.
SEEK CHANGES: In the right situation, artificial insemination can produce big changes in a cow herd in just four to five years through heifers, says Bruce Carpenter, Texas AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Fort Stockton.
BREAK TIme: After artificially inseminating 45 heifers in just one hour in a demonstration at Halfmann Red Angus ranch at Miles, Texas, Stan Lock, area sales manager for Genex Cooperative Inc., Republic, Mo. takes a break.
This article published in the July, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.