Marketing of AI Calves
by Troy Smith for Angus Productions Inc.
NASHVILLE, TENN. (Aug. 5, 2010) — The Virginia Department of Corrections is the only prison system in the U.S. that raises and markets produce, meat and milk. During the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) Conference, in Nashville, Tenn., Mark Davis described the department’s agricultural enterprises, including the raising and marketing of calves produced through artificial insemination (AI) at the Buckingham Correctional Center at Dillwyn, Va.
Davis said the department has a total land base of 10,000 acres and maintains a collective herd of 4,600 cattle. At the Buckingham facility, Davis oversees a 900-acre operation, which includes a 140-head fall-calving cow herd. Up to 100 head of the calves marketed annually are produced through AI.
“The economic advantages are a result of a more uniform calf crop,” stated Davis. “Because of estrous synchronization and AI, the calves are closer in age. More calves are born early in the calving season and are heavier at weaning. The AI-sired calves are two to three weeks older than calves sired by cleanup bulls. That adds value to those calves.”
Davis said the quality of calves produced has steadily improved through the use of high-quality AI sires. The quality and uniformity of the entire calf crop is enhanced by using cleanup bulls that are one-half or three-quarter brothers sired by the featured AI sire.
Davis also described how the calves are marketed through a program developed by the county cattlemen’s association and Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. Participants adhere to a health management protocol and Virginia Quality Assurance guidelines. Commingled loads of steers are marketed through a Virginia Cattlemen’s Association-sponsored auction. The group also collectively markets cull cows and holds a replacement heifer sale.
Calling AI an important part of a value-added program, Davis explained how older, heavier AI-sired fetch a premium, compared to lighter, mostly naturally sired calves. For calves sold in spring 2010, the premium was more than $50 per head.
Gaining a reputation for quality calves, Davis said the Buckingham facility is exploring the potential for private treaty marketing of calves directly to cattle feeders. Also being considered is retaining ownership of calves to capture more of the value added by AI.
Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or redistributed without the express permission of API, publisher of the Angus Journal, Angus Beef Bulletin, Angus e-List and Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.