Ways to improve breeding efficiency, save money

There are many ways producers can improve breeding efficiencies and lower their costs.

Sharing bulls with like-minded producers is one cost-saving option. Another is using synchronization programs with artificial insemination.

Dairy producers already use sexed semen, which may become more available in the beef industry down the road.

In the past dairy operators needed to keep all the replacements they could but with sexed semen there is now an abundance of good replacement heifers available.

This allows them to consider breeding their older cows to beef bulls, which should dramatically increase the sales value of their calves.

Many purebred beef producers have semen for sale, which dairymen could access.

Dairy producers use their AI skills anyway and this creates a co-operative spirit between dairy and beef sectors that may have been lacking in the past.

This could have a particular benefit to the Jersey breeds because most of their bull calves have almost no market value.

Dairy producers breed all year around so their AI skills are second to none. There is not a purebred beef breeder out there that would not have semen to sell to dairymen.

Dairy semen is fairly inexpensive, especially from younger sires, so I am sure they have been scared off by the high price of beef semen in advertisements.

But cheaper semen might also be available. Many purebred beef producers have semen in storage from bulls they are no longer promoting or using that would be great for crossbreeding with dairy cows.

Dairy cattle have few issues calving so these crossbreds would be very “growthy” and saleable calves.

The crossbred offspring are often sought after for recipients in an embryo program because of their great milking ability.

But remember, these half-bloods can still have dairy metabolic diseases such as milk fever, ketosis and mastitis so may need to be managed a bit differently or they can be put in the feedlot where more muscling and growth should return profit to the owner.

Sharing bulls

The varied calving seasons between producers or on the same large operations have allowed exceptional bulls to have two or more breeding seasons. But it is still the most profitable to have a confined breeding season.

Numerous articles have been written on this, but a 63-day, three-cycle breeding program is probably ideal. Most top producers run just over two cycles with their breeding heifers.

You are selecting for fertility when breeding heifers for only two cycles. The open heifers that you cull can go to the feedlot and return top dollar.

By breeding heifers one cycle early you allow them more time after their first calf to get ready for rebreeding and can watch them a little closer at calving season. Bred heifers can have more mothering, milking and calving issues so they will require more attention.

If a large operation has a spring and fall calving program no additional bulls are needed.

The bulls will need one to two months between seasons to regain weight and heal any nagging injuries, especially penile ulcers and contusions.

Two breeding seasons may be more beneficial to the longevity of bulls because in the off season bulls often are put in small pens and they get fat, develop long hooves and essentially get out of shape. This extra fat in the scrotum can hinder their fertility.

Two producers with different breeding seasons but several things in common such as management skills, herd health programs and breed preferences could share breeding bulls, allowing them to afford better quality animals.

When sharing bulls, both herds should be on the same type of health program regarding parasite control, preventive shots, and biosecurity measures.

The two operations will have to agree upon details such as who keeps the bull in the off-season.

I recommend semen testing before each breeding season to identify problems that may have developed. Select your herd bulls wisely whether through natural breeding or A.I.

Bulls provide half the genetics in your herd so spend time making the best possible breeding choices.

With high value bulls, semen is often collected even if just for on-farm use. It acts as an insurance program.

If both owners breed at one time, one will have the “walking rights” of the bull and the other gets the A.I. rights thus effectively using a valuable productive bull.

There are many effective options now available for synchronization programs allowing many cows to be bred quickly, especially when using skilled AI technicians. This reduces the length of the calving season, maximizes genetic gain and reduces breeding cost.

Your goal should be to confine the breeding season and use the best genetics you can afford.

If interested in synchronization programs, talk to your veterinarian who will likely have a method they have used successfully.

Here’s to a very fertile breeding season.

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