Artificial insemination (AI) is accepted by most producers in the purebred business, and increasingly by commercial producers as well. AI can offer the opportunity to use high quality, proven genetics at a price which is often more affordable than buying and keeping the natural sire. But the traditional method of heat detection has given producers reason to raise an eyebrow and scoff the possibility off, and understandably so. Heat detection requires an incredible amount of time investment for beef cattle, as they are not handled twice a day like their dairy counterparts.
Enter: estrus synchronization (ES). There are four different ES programs, but essentially all they’re doing is using hormones (prostaglandin) to bring a group of cattle into estrus (heat) for a planned timeframe. The animals can then be artificially inseminated (or sent out to pasture – but natural sires then need to be able to service many animals coming into heat at once).
sexual inactivity that occurs
between two heat cycles.
All that said, Fixed-Time AI (TAI) isn’t for everyone, nor is it the magic solution to reproductive issues. It also means bringing healthy animals through the chute a few times, and thus relies on a sound handling system, good help and a strong understanding of the process.
Before deciding to give it a try, re-evaluate your goals and compare the costs to your current program. There are many resources to help with this, but if you have a smartphone, may I recommend the AI Cowculator?
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the following video with Cliff Lamb, associate director and professor at the University of Florida. In it, he explains how the University’s commercial herd moved from a breeding season of 120 days to just 70 in six years. Lamb also explains the benefits of ES as he’s seen them in separate studies, including a 6% increase in calves weaned and increased cow:calf weaning weight.