Artificial Insemination for the Commercial Producer
Keeping up bulls can be aggravating at times, and a large expense if maintenance costs (feed and repairs) are included with the purchase price. One way to lower those costs and improve genetics at the same time is through artificial insemination (AI). There are many benefits that cattle producers, large or small, can gain by using AI. To gain the most benefits, females need to be bred using fixed time AI. Fixed time AI is the process of synchronizing ovulation of females in the herd by using hormones through injection or insertion. Then females will be ready to breed at the same time, and will be pregnant within a more certain time window. In turn, the calving season is shortened, and the more potential those calves will have after weaning at market because they will be closer to the same age and size. A longer calving season creates create calves with a wider spread in size and weight, making the calf crop less consistent. The more consistent a load of calves are at market, the better the load looks, creating more potential.
The other method of AI is heat detection. With this method, hormones are injected and or inserted into the female following a protocol. The producer watches for estrous activity on each female and breeds her when she shows signs of heat. For both methods, there are many different options of protocols to choose from.
Regardless of method, there are benefits beyond shorter calving seasons and bull expenses. By using AI and purchasing semen, producers can have the genetics of high quality, genetically superior bulls. Bulls are available that are above average in calving ease weaning weights, maternal, carcass or other traits, without having to pay $10,000 or more for a natural service bull. Most straws of semen that commercial producers use run from $15-$30 a straw. After getting females bred, producers can continue to collect on that genetic advantage by keeping back heifers.
Even though using AI means extra time and labor, there are great benefits and improvements to the herd – from from calving ease to carcass traits. Good facilities are about the only equipment needed to get started. Different semen companies have representatives to help you get started with AI. Also, many producers keep a bull to inseminate females that don’t catch the first time with AI.