Current Edition

current edition

Management

Lake sees value for cattle herds in using artificial insemination protocols

Written by Natasha Wheeler

Casper – “The genetic gap, maybe, has closed a little bit between an AI bull and buying a really good bull from a reputable buyer,” noted Scott Lake, a UW Extension beef specialist. 

Many bulls are, after all, sons of artificial insemination (AI), he commented,.But Lake still emphasized the value of AI during a presentation at the 2014 Progressive Rancher Forum in Casper.

In using AI, the breeding cycle, for example, is easier to manage.

“If we want to have calves in the early part of the calving season, the cows need to be cycling when the breeding season starts,” stated Lake. 

Progesterone protocols involved with AI can induce this cycling. This leads to a more synchronized herd and, in turn, more efficient calf distribution.

Lake noted that we want each cow to have a calf every 365 days. 

“To accomplish this, we have about 83 days from the time a cow calves to get her bred again,” Lake explained.

Those cows that cycle late in their early years will be out of synch, likely cycling later and later as they get older. Eventually, they start coming up dry in their third or fourth years because they don’t cycle until after the breeding season ends. 

The estrous cycle in a cow is 21 days, but as Lake pointed out, “That range is going to start at 17 and go to 23 or 24 days.”

Another advantage of AI is the ability to purchase superior genetics through semen versus the cost of natural service bulls. In a small herd, maintaining heifer bulls to maintain low birth weight EPDs can be expensive. 

“In a couple of years, the heifer bull is physically too big to put on heifers, but he is still a heifer bull. So keeping him for five to six years to get the money’s worth creates a whole battery of heifer bulls breeding with cows,” noted Lake.

“The value of AI is in the cows, if we want the bang for our buck,” Lake stated. 

Proven accuracy is the advantage for heifers, but there are more options for good genetics in growth if there isn’t a concern about calving ease in a mature cow.

Setting goals is the key to getting the most out of an AI program, Lake continued.

“Producers ask me what bulls they should use, and this always strikes me because it is different for everybody,” said Lake. 

Producers have to consider what kind of cattle they want. Are they trying to sell replacement heifers, bulls or commercial calves? Will they sell at weaning? Do they retain any ownership of animals at the feedlot, or do they run yearling cattle?

“Does the type of cow that the producer has fit its environment?” asked Lake. 

By creating a vision for the operation, AI can help create a uniform calf crop, bigger calves, proven accuracy and improved genetics in the herd.

“In my opinion, even if there is a break-even deal, producers are way ahead by using the superior genetics in AI,” said Lake.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..