Artificial insemination (AI) is becoming more and more popular amongst commercial beef producers in the area. The benefits of running an AI program include:
- Access to superior genetics – In the past few years bull prices have jumped considerably. This has greatly reduced access to advanced genetics. AI allows greater opportunity to obtain progeny from top bulls through purchasing semen ($20-50/straw) rather than having to purchase the bull itself. Additionally semen can be sourced from Australia and even world wide – genetics which would otherwise be unavailable.
- Access to proven genetics – Typically bulls are purchased at a young age before they have any progeny on the ground. This means that most are bought unproven and unfortunately many will not go on to produce the type of progeny hoped for. In contrast semen can be purchased from a proven sire which can increase the predictability of the progeny and reduce the risk.
- Obtaining better calves from heifers – Typically producers use very low birth weight bulls over their heifers to reduce calving issues – these bulls are also often low weaning weight bulls and the bulk of the progeny are often culled despite heifers representing the best genetics in the herd. By using an AI program over heifers, a bull with accurate EBVs and proven results can be selected with a low birth weight and moderate-high growth rate, ensuring that progeny are suitable for retention in the herd. Sale animals may weigh 20+kg heavier at point of sale than those from a typical ‘heifer bull’ = 15 x $3 = $60+/head
- Improved genetic turnaround – By retaining a much larger percentage of progeny out of heifers, genetic turnaround can be reduced from 3 years (a females 2nd calf) to 2 years – an improvement of 50%.
- Increased use from own bulls – Semen can be collected from your own bull and be used in an AI program at the same time as the bull is joined to another group of cows. This option may be particularly attractive when purchasing expensive bulls to increase number of progeny obtained from him.
- Increased selection pressure on fertility – In most beef production systems fertility is the number 1 driver of profitability. In order to improve the fertility of a herd, a selection pressure needs to be applied (e.g. selling any females that do not raise a calf per year). An AI program is a great way to select for the most fertile heifers in a cohort that then carries on to the cow herd in future years.
- Females will be set up for future years – By putting heifers through an AI program they are in a better position to remain in the herd for more years. Whilst adult cows take on average 55 days to reconceive post calving, heifers can take a month longer. This does not leave much leeway for heifers to get back into calf in a tight window post calving. In an AI program, heifers can be joined a few weeks before the cow herd and the majority of heifers will calve in the first week of the calving period. This will give them an extra few weeks to start cycling again, ready to conceive early in the subsequent joining period. This will help your females remain part of your herd for longer.
- Large proportion of calves born at start of calving period – the average gestation length of heifers in an AI program is generally shorter than usual – therefore the bulk have already calved by the due date. The result is a shorter calving window and more uniform age/size of the calves which has flow on benefits at marking & weaning (less younger animals which may struggle) as well as at the point of sale. On average, calves in an AI program are 10.5 days older = 10kg x $3 = $30/calf born
- More predictable calving – as discussed above most calves will be born in a rush over a short period which cuts down on time spent monitoring heifers.
- Less calving difficulties – by selecting proven sires with low birth weights and good ease of calving figures, far fewer issues are generally experienced at calving time. Additionally, gestation lengths in AI females are typically shorter which further helps reduce birth weight.
- Improved handling of females – running heifers through the yards multiple times over a short period helps significantly to improve their temperament and ease of handling for the remained of their lives.
- Improved heifer growth/condition – As the condition and weight of heifers is critical to the outcome of an AI program, more attention is generally paid to ensure that they are meeting targets. This often results in heifers being better grown than they may otherwise have been which again helps conception rates as 2nd calvers.
If interested in carrying out an AI program as part of your production system, we are able to walk you through the process from start to finish. We will devise a synchronisation protocol and demonstrate how to carry this out, store your chosen semen straws on site and perform the insemination on the chosen day.