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Copyright © 2015
Angus Journal

What's the Reason Behind Slow Adoption of AI in the Commercial Beef Industry?

FORT COLLINS (Dec. 2, 2008) — “While many commercial producers are using artificial insemination successfully, a whole lot more of them are not,” said University of Nebraska Professor Emeritus Ivan Rush. “Producers cite a lot of different reasons, but it mostly comes down to economics. They don’t believe it pays.”

Ivan Rush, University of Nebraska professor emeritus, explained reasons for slow adoption of AI technology in the commercial beef industry. Among the reasons was the availability of high-quality natural-service bulls.

Rush presented his comments Dec. 2 in Fort Collins, Colo., at the Robert E. Taylor Memorial Symposium: Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle.

The biggest factor limiting adoption of AI in commercial operations may be labor, Rush said. Producer surveys indicate both quantity and quality of labor is lacking. A goal of many large ranching operations is to reduce their numbers of employees, with some striving to employ one person per 800 cows, and AI is considered too labor intensive and impractical. Quality of labor is an issue as well, as employees with cattle handling and heat-detecting skills are in short supply.

For large, expansive operations managing cattle in multiple locations, confining cattle to implement synchronization protocols and perform AI is challenging, Rush explained. Many do not have adequate facilities. Really large range operations may only handle cows once or twice a year, and additional handling represents considerable added cost.

At the other end of the scale, some operators believe their 20- to 25-head herds are too small for efficient implementation of AI, he added.

Some producers, after hearing exaggerated stories of AI programs gone wrong, are afraid of having a “wreck” themselves, Rush noted. Others say the intensive management required for AI doesn’t fit their goals for quality of life on the ranch.

“A trend toward calving later in the spring (or early summer), on green grass, also increase the challenge of using AI,” Rush said. “And this is still too much of a commodity business to provide enough market incentive for a ‘superior product’ produced through AI.”

To achieve greater adoption by commercial producers, Rush says implementation of AI must be simpler, with lower labor requirements and higher success rates.

“Make it economical and it will be used,” Rush concluded.

The Robert E. Taylor Memorial Symposium is conducted by Colorado State University every other year to provide current, research-based information for improving profitability in the beef cattle industry. The ARSBC program was developed by the Beef Cattle Reproduction Task Force to improve understanding and application of reproductive technologies, including AI, estrus synchronization and factors affecting male fertility. In 2008, CSU and the Task Force collaborated to provide the Dec. 2-3 symposium in Fort Collins. To listen to Rush’s presentation, view his PowerPoint or access other presentations from the symposium, visit the newsroom at

— by Troy Smith

Click here for accompanying PowerPoint as a pdf file (52 KB).
Click here to listen to the presentation (7.8 MB mp3).

Editor’s Note: This article is available as a news release to redistribute per an agreement between the symposium hosts and Angus Productions Inc. Click here to submit a request for a high-resolution photo of the speaker. For additional information visit the newsroom of