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Copyright © 2015
Angus Journal

'Little Things' Count with AI and Synchronization Protocols

JOPLIN, Mo. (Aug. 31, 2011) — “Many people have the idea that the good things they do in management will compensate for the mistakes they make, but the mistakes you make end up canceling out the good things you do.” That’s what Mike Smith, professor of animal sciences at the University of Missouri (MU) told folks at the Applied Reproductive Strategies for Beef Cattle (ARSBC) conference in Joplin, Mo., Wednesday.

Estrus synchronization — through timed breeding or based on heat detection — and artificial insemination (AI) underscore how much details matter.

Speaking of the timed protocols referred to as fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI), Smith explained that success revolves around optimizing lots of details: “… the number of healthy, cycling females at the beginning of the breeding season; careful attention to sire selection; implementation of an appropriate estrus synchronization protocol; low-stress cattle handling; purchase of high-quality semen; proper semen handling and insemination technique; good nutritional management before and after FTAI.”

Breeding by appointment using a fixed-time AI protocol means cows are bred at a specific time based on the protocol rather than visual observance of heat. Success hinges on program compliance — using "the right product at the right time on the right day."

Get those things right, though, and a high percentage of females conceive early in the breeding season (in the first 21 days), which offers enormous potential. For steers, based on research at the University of Nebraska, Smith said it means increased weaning weight, increased hot carcass weight, increased marbling score, an increase in the number of carcasses grading Choice or higher and increased carcass value.

For heifer progeny, Smith explained, getting heifers and cows bred in the first 21 days yields increased weaning weight, increased prebreeding weight, increased precalving rate, an increase in the percentage of females cycling before breeding, and ultimately higher pregnancy rates.          

“So, there are huge performance and reproduction benefits, in addition to genetic improvement,” Smith said.

That’s why more producers are using synchronization and AI, especially via FTAI. This ‘appointment breeding’ means cows are bred at a specific time, relative to the synchronization protocol, rather than breeding based on the variable, time-intense method of detecting cows in heat.

Smith emphasized success requires commitment to the details. For instance, cows must be bred according to the synchronization protocol. With FTAI, for instance, Smith said, “You need to breed at the scheduled time; you’re scheduling ovulation.” So, breeding within an hour or two of the scheduled time is vastly different than breeding at the scheduled time.

“Protocol compliance is extremely important,” Smith said. “You must use the right product at the right time on the right day.”

Other details may not seem so obvious. For example, Smith explained the target weight for heifers at breeding is 65% of their mature weight. That means knowing rather than guessing what your mature cows actually weigh.

Incidentally, Smith said utilizing a synchronization program appropriate for natural service breeding offers a positive first step for producers considering FTAI.      

For specific information about how estrus synchronization protocols synchronize estrus and ovulation, check out the online MU course Fundamentals of Beef Reproduction and Management: Focus on Estrus Synchronization.

Bottom line, Smith explained, “a successful estrus synchronization and AI program is dependent upon being proactive, well-organized, and attention to detail. The success of these systems hinges on many factors (see "Tips for Successful Estrus Synchronization and AI" below).”

Smith spoke during Wednesday morning's ARSBC session focused on management considerations influencing success in estrus synchronization and AI programs. Visit the Newsroom at to view the PowerPoint slides and the proceedings paper submitted by Smith to accompany his presentation. Audio of the presentation will be available soon.

Comprehensive coverage of the symposium is available online at Compiled by Angus Productions Inc. (API), the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproductive Task Force, SEK Genetics, and Coverage includes summaries of the speaker presentations, PowerPoints, proceedings and audio.

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.

Tips for Successful Estrus Synchronization and AI**

Things to do before fixed-time artificial insemination

Sire selection

Heifer criteria

Cow criteria

Things to do at the time of estrus synchronization and artificial insemination

Things to do after fixed-time artificial insemination

**Taken from proceeding of Applied Reproductive Strategies for Beef Cattle conference in Joplin, Mo. Proceedings available for $25 by contacting the University of Missouri Conference Office at 573-882-4349 or