Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kelbv
Bull semen from almost anywhere can be frozen, shipped and inserted into your cow. Cattlemen, beef and dairy, use artificial insemination to improve the quality of their herd. Analysing the additional cost and comparing it with your expected increase in profit can help you decide if artificial insemination is right for your cattle business.
Heat Management Costs
Heat detection and oestrus synchronisation are important parts of artificial insemination. The success of your AI program depends on good timing. Observing your cows regularly may be enough, but a heat-detection patch placed on your cow's rump changes colour when she's been mounted by other cows and makes heat detection much easier. Patches often cost about 60p to £1.30 per cow when bought in bulk. When breeding an entire herd, it is often easiest to chemically control their cycles. Progesterone inserts (about $10 per cow) delay a cow's oestrus. There are multiple methods for oestrus synchronising, each requiring a different amount of cost and labour.
Usually a straw of semen, good for one breeding, costs between $5 and $25, but if an amazing bull suffered an early death and the semen was only collected a few times, there is no ceiling. Many cattlemen breed their cows multiple times in one oestrus; often it takes more then one oestrus for your cow to catch. A 40 to 50 per cent success rate on the first breeding is considered good.
A cattlemen can learn insemination himself, trade favours with a neighbour trained in insemination or pay a professional to inseminate his cows. An Internet search will quickly find three to four day clinics that teach insemination; some companies can even send a professional to your home to teach you how to inseminate your cows. This may be a great option if no one in your area is available, but if the dairymen across the street inseminates his own cows and has a broken bailer, you may have just found yourself a great deal. Ask about his success rate. If neither option works for you, most companies that sell bull semen also have employees that will deliver the semen and inseminate your cows.
Bull or No Bull
Since AI is not 100 per cent effective you will still need access to a "clean up" bull. You can own or rent a bull. Because most of your cows will be bred through AI, you will not need to buy a new bull every two years like you would if all your cows were bred to your bull.
Time and Equipment
Artificially inseminating your cows is hands on. From heat detection and oestrus manipulation to the actual insemination, you will need to catch and handle your cows much more often than through natural breeding. All this handling requires a lot of time and good facilities. If your idea of a cow control is pinning a cow between the gate and a fence, you will need to invest in a good working chute before AI is a real option. If you have employees who will be doing the work for you, consider the extra hours you must pay them as you do your cost analysis.
Many farmers find the benefits of artificial insemination to be worth the added initial expense. Dairy cows born from AI produce more milk, AI beef cows produce superior offspring and AI bred bulls in dairy and beef bring far higher bids at auction then their naturally conceived competitors. Shannon Linderoth of "Dairy Herd Magazine" states, "thanks to improved genetic merit, cows from AI-proven bulls produce about 1400 Kilogram more herd lifetime milk and are $148 more profitable than natural-service daughters."
Watch a bull sale in your area to personally examine the difference in gains. Talk to other herdsmen in your area. Put in the research and do the calculations to see if artificial insemination financially works for your herd.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kelbv