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Author: Kristy

Economics of timed AI management practices

By Laura Mushrush, Assistant Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork

“Pregnancy has four times greater economic impact than any other trait,” said Cliff Lamb, University of Florida – North Florida Research and Education Center, during the 2015 Beef Improvement Federation National Association of Animal Breeders Symposium.

Lamb, who has devoted much time to researching estrous synchronization for timed artificial insemination (AI), said in the last five years, few changes have been made to pricing components related to timed AI, including costs of semen, arm service labor and hormones, while the market for calves and herd bulls has greatly increased – making for great economic opportunity for cow-calf producers who utilize the technology.

And while estrous synchronization protocols have remained similar, management practices play a huge role in the economics of times AI.

“Yields are not in tweaking protocols, but management in the hands of those syncing cows,” said Lamb.

In a study by USDA MARC, heifers that became pregnant within the first 21 days of the breeding season had significantly greater longevity than heifers who became pregnant later on in the breeding season. Furthermore, heifers who became pregnant within the first 21 days yielded calves with heavier weaning weights than later bred heifers.

Lamb used this research as a base for a UF-NFREC case study in applying time pressure on breeding seasons over an eight year period. Starting in 2006, before pressure was added, the pregnancy rate for a 120 day breeding season was 81 percent and the mean calving day was 79.2. By 2013, gradual applied pressure set the breeding season at 72 days, yielding a 93 percent pregnancy rate and mean calving day of 38.7.

Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
PR 81% 86% 84% 86% 82% 94% 92% 93%
Mean calving day 79.2 80.9 59.2 56.2 53.7 47.2 39.5 37.7
BS length 120 120 110 88 80 75 70 72

 

“The percentage of cows that become pregnant in the first 30 days of the breeding season is the most important economic aspect,” said Lamb.

Research has also been conducted to show significant increases in calf performance from timed AI scenarios. In a study with 615 head in the control group and 582 head in the timed AI group, the timed AI group outperformed the control with an 84 percent weaning rate and an average of 425 pound weaning weight, compared to the control’s 78 percent weaning rate and 387 pound weaning weight.

While some producers shy away from timed AI due to labor requirements, Lamb says being able to cut the calving season in half should be an outweighing benefit. Producers may also find that it’s more cost objective due to the cost of bulls for their herd. The following chart was provided by Lamb:

Change in value based on herd sire costs

Item $3,000 $6,000 $10,000
Increased returns (increased value of AI calves) $97.22 $97.22 $97.22
Increased cost (decreased cost of clean-up bulls) $32.11 $61.35 $100.34
Increased returns (Attributed to fewer clean-up bulls included in decreased cost calculation) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Increased cost (additional labor, semen, AI supplies, etc.) $44.60 $44.60 $44.60
Cost per cow exposed to AI $84.73 $113.97 $152.97
Cost of bull per 34 head operation $2,881 $3,875 $5,201
Cost of bull per 100 head operation $7,446 $9,424 $12,086

“When you put it in an economic model, estrous synchronization tools play a small role,” said Lamb.  “Cost of bulls and bulls to cows ratio play the biggest role in cost factor.”

To have greater success with timed AI programs, Lamb suggests operations come up with a strict set of guidelines they follow to determine a cow’s success in the program. The following are followed by UF-NFREC:

  • Must calve by 24 months of age
  • Cow must calve every 365 days
  • Cows must calve without assistance
  • Cows must provide sufficient resources for the calf to reach it’s genetic potential
  • Calf must genetically able to perform
  • Cows must maintain their body condition score for conditions
  • Must not be crazy (disposition)

Lamb also reminds producers to have realistic expectations for their operations and not to set those expectations too high.

For producers wanting to have a better idea if timed AI is a good option for their herd, check out the AI Cowculator. The app was developed by the University of Florida and Zoetis Animal Health to take project producer inputs into a likely scenario.

 

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