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The Economic Benefits of Synchronized Artificial Insemination

Reproductive physiologist urges cattlemen to re-evaluate the cost comparison of synchronized AI vs. natural service.

by Troy Smith, Angus Media field editor

The disciplined application of estrus synchronization and artificial insemination (AI) can have a lasting economic advantage. University of Tennessee Reproductive Physiologist Justin Rhinehart thinks these complementary technologies would be more widely used if commercial cow-calf producers understood how adoption could impact profitability.

Justin Rhinehart

It usually takes five years to see the impact of maternal genetics through retention of AI-sired heifers, said Justin Rhinehart of the University of Kentucky. However, producers can work toward the realistic goal of increasing the pounds of calf weaned per pound of cow exposed.

“Estrus synchronization and AI can improve both short-term and long-term profitability,” Rhinehart told an audience gathered for the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium and Convention hosted May 31-June 3. Rhinehart’s presentation was part of the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) Symposium convened in conjunction with the BIF Convention in Athens, Ga.

Rhinehart lamented the fact that fewer than 10% of all beef producers utilize estrus synchronization and AI. Among the reasons many producers say they shy away from the reproductive technologies are perceptions regarding labor, time and facility requirements, as well as the overall cost. There was a time that synchronized AI typically was more expensive than natural service. However, considering current bull purchase and maintenance costs, Rhinehart advises producers to re-evaluate the alternative.

“With an 85% pregnancy rate (about the national average) using a $5,000 bull, natural service costs $60 to $70 per pregnancy — about the same as synchronized AI,” stated Rhinehart. “The cost is similar when calculated on an equivalent production basis.”

Rhinehart said producers implementing synchronized AI can realize a short-term economic impact of up to $50 per cow as a result of having more calves born early in the calving season, increased uniformity in the calf crop and a heavier average weaning weight. The postpartum interval for cows can also be reduced.

Long-term profitability can be improved through disciplined application of synchronized AI over time. Rinehart said it usually takes five years to see the impact of maternal genetics through retention of AI-sired heifers. At the same time, producers can work toward the realistic goal of increasing the pounds of calf weaned per pound of cow exposed.

Rhinehart cited case studies illustrating how producers using synchronized AI over a period of nine years, applied selection pressure to increase the average adjusted weaning weight of their calves while, at the same time, selecting for reduced mature weight of females retained as replacements.

“It is possible to select for heavy calves at weaning and lower mature cow weights, simultaneously,” stated Rhinehart. “That results in increased pounds of calf weaned per pounds of cow exposed. It is a realistic goal.”

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

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