It’s a 3 hour drive back to the house, across the Tennessee River and on highways unknown. Maybe it’s enough time for my fingers to thaw and feet to warm. After standing in the cold barn with snow cover all day, I’m mighty glad to remember the thermals and thick socks. I learned a new piece of the trade today. Growing up with 1,200 cows on the ranch, when breeding season came around, we let all the bulls do the work. Now that I am in graduate school, I’m learning about the use of artificial insemination methods to breed cattle.
It just made sense in our commercial operation to invest in good bulls rather than have to handle all the cows multiple times for synchronization and insemination. However, for smaller producers or purebred operations, using artificial insemination is a great tool to expand genetics in the herd and make available genetics from proven sires without the investment in a live bull.
The typical cattleman in many areas will have 30-60 head, many have off-farm jobs, and may use their cattle as supplementary income. Let’s take farmer Joe who has 60 cows. He AIs his cows and has a minimum of 50% conception rates. He can cut his bull requirements in half, using only one bull to cover his cows. Using AI Joe can utilize crossbreeding in his herd for more heterosis in the calf crops and replacement heifers. Then if Joe has a town job during the week, he can utilize synchronization methods for timed-breeding and a closer calf crop, reducing the amount of time he spends away from the town job or using hired help. And using synchronization Joe can bring his entire season closer together and have a more uniform calf crop.
These steps may require some investment in equipment or hiring out for the job, but by the time ya add the benefits (more uniform calf crop, proven genetics, less time calving) Joe might end up money ahead.
Artificial Insemination techniques are a new skill for me, but I have a few good guys to learn from. I spent the whole day fishing semen straws from the tank and loading the insemination guns. I may have been shiverin all day with the cold wind at my back, but I’m still pretty doggone excited to be learning new skills in the cattle business. Wouldn’t have it any other way!
Select Sires is a company out of Ohio that handles breeding and genetics services for beef and dairy cattle producers. This page contains links to several pages that describe the process of artificial insemination and related techniques. Oklahoma State also provides a great review of AI techniques in cattle. Be sure to contact your veterinarian or extension office for services available in your area.
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”Instead of pursing a career I could of made a lot of money at, I pursued what I love.” — Joe Leathers, 6666 Ranch
Want to know what AI looks like? Be sure to stop by this post from another rancher for some great photos.