BENEFITS AT THE COW-CALF, FEEDER AND HARVEST LEVELS
John B. Hall, Ph.D., Extension beef specialist at the University of Idaho, explained some of the reasons at the 2019 Range Beef Cow Symposium hosted Nov. 18-20 in Mitchell, Neb. “For any technology to be adopted, it must be effective, fit into the manage- ment of the operation and provide suffi- cient return on investment,” Hall stated. “For dairies, AI fit into the management system – twice daily milking and heat detection go together.” It was also easy to see the results, Hall said. “Over the last 50 years, the increase in milk production per cow per year averaged 266 pounds, with 150 pounds attributed to genetics – the rest is nutrition and management.” For beef herds, capitalizing on the value of AI has been more difficult to obtain and perceive. “We see that about 20 percent of heifers in the United States are probably exposed to AI at some point in time,” Hall explained. “On the cow side, we don’t use a lot of AI, and there’s a lot of logistical reasons for that.” For many beef producers, time and labor are cited as the primary reasons for not incorporating AI programs into their herds. However, Hall pointed out,
advances in fixed-time AI systems have resulted in reduced cattle handling time while producing consistent pregnancy rates of 50 to 65 percent. “To incorporate fixed-time AI into a 300-head cow herd, it would cost $14,268, including extra labor for working cattle,” Hall said. “This would make the cost of an AI pregnancy vary from $95.12 for a 50 percent preg- nancy rate to $73.17 for a 65 percent pregnancy rate.” Research indicates incorporating fixed-time AI into a breeding program usually increases final pregnancy rates by 3 to 5 percent due to “jump- starting” anestrous (non-cycling) cows and giving them more opportunities to become pregnant during the breeding season, Hall said. When comparing AI to natural service on a per-calf-cost basis, Hall explained, “The assumptions are: maintenance cost is $700 per bull per year; salvage value is $1,600; a bull is used for three years; bull to cow ratio is 1:25; and pregnancy rate of the herd is 90 percent.” With bull prices at $4,000 to $5,000, cost per natural service pregnancy is $73 to $91. CONTINUED ON PAGE 34
S ince the late 1930s, the cattle industry has been utilizing artificial insemination (AI), mostly in dairy cattle, with frozen semen becoming available in the 1950s. Today, more than 66 percent of U.S. dairy cows and 85 percent of reg- istered Holsteins are products of AI. On the flip side, only 7.9 percent of U.S. beef operations use estrus synchroni- zation protocols and 7.6 percent use AI. Less than 10 percent of U.S. beef females are AI’d, with the majority of that 10 percent being in the seedstock sector. So why is there so much differ- ence in AI utilization between dairy and beef operations?
John B. Hall, Ph.D.
SANTA GERTRUDIS USA
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