Artificial Insemination (AI)…. Is it something I should or could do?
Breeding season is in full swing all over the U.S., including here at Mushrush Ranches. We just finished artificially inseminating about 500 head of commercial heifers and the rest of the month is full of synchronization and breeding. As you can see from our color coded calendar below, May 19th starts a marathon preparing breeding groups and completing A.I. protocols. When it is all said and done, nearly every cow and heifer on the ranch will be exposed A.I.
There are many benefits to Artificial Insemination but it doesn’t come without some trade offs. We will go through a few of each so you can decide if A.I. is right for you and your breeding goals.
- More calves born earlier in the calving season. Getting cows settled timely and having more calves born early in the calving season boosts the overall payweight of your calves and also helps get the cow settled again the following year. With A.I., more calves will be born in the first 21 days of the breeding season as synchronization ‘jumpstarts’ the estrus cycle and bunches cows into a tighter calving window.
- Genetics. Without a doubt this is a compelling reason to A.I. Breed impact bulls can be used without them ever setting foot on your ranch. Not only can you have access to breed changing genetics, you can do it in volume. Bulls that can naturally service 25 cows a year are able to breed thousands with A.I. (including yours).
- Fewer bulls (in theory). Utilizing time bred systems will average about 50% conception rate for A.I. settled cows. If the other 50% comes back into heat 21 days later, bull power needs to be considered carefully. However, if cows are bred on heat, less bulls could be used for the final mating.
- Breeding security. Bad things tend to happen to bulls when you need them most. Utilizing timed A.I. essentially cuts these risks in half by having 50% of the herd settled right away.
- It isn’t free. You will spend money on semen, shots, labor, sheaths, AI guns…..and the list goes on. Beef Cattle Research Council estimates that fixed-time A.I. costs $20-$30 per head in addition to semen costs which can add $5-$30/head.
- It takes a lot of time. Most cows on a timed A.I. event will go through the chute 3 times in 10 days….some protocols will be 4 times over 33 days. Chances are you will be doing one trip through the chute in the dark. You are also at the mercy of Mother Nature. Once you start a protocol, you are committed even if its raining an inch an hour with a 40 mph wind the day you are scheduled to do that step in the protocol.
- Good facilities are a must. Your neighbor’s 40 year old stocker shipping pen isn’t going to cut it. Electricity in some form will be required. While a covered chute is not necessary, heat and cold can affect semen quality. Some way to protect it from the elements is crucial. Calm cows breed better, so well built smart facilities make economic sense and are very helpful in keeping everyone safe too.
- Long term you probably won’t save money on bulls! Keep in mind that 50% of the cows will be in heat in a 3-5 day period 21 days after your A.I. event. If you have a long 75 day season the bulls will eventually get them all, but if you are on a shorter 45 day season or want to front load your calf crop as much as you can, you will need to have adequate bull power.
Artificial Insemination is a big commitment and a huge undertaking, but has many rewarding benefits for the right program. We would be happy to answer any additional questions. If you are already utilizing A.I., we have a great selection of sires with semen available. You can check them out on our sire page or call Daniel for more information (620-340-9774).