'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.”
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 www.appliedreprostrategies.com 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 www.appliedreprostrategies.com. Compiled by Angus Productions Inc. (API), the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproductive Task Force, SEK Genetics, and liveauctions.tv. 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.
Things to do before fixed-time artificial insemination
- Keep accurate calving, breeding and pregnancy records.
- Animal identification should be clear and easily readable.
- Ensure herd health and disease prevention with a well designed prebreeding vaccination protocol. Vaccinate females a minimum of 30 days before the breeding season begins.
- Decide which estrus synchronization protocol best fits your breeding program, facilitie, and personnel (see protocol sheets in AI catalogs).
- Ensure all products are purchased and on hand prior to initiation of the protocol.
- Prepare the calendar of actions to ensure protocol compliance.
- Determine if you will purchase or raise replacement heifers.
- Decide how you will market your calves.
- Select proven AI sires with high-accuracy EPDs that match performance goals.
- Purchase semen from a Certified Semen Services (CSS) collection facility.
- Prepare or update your semen inventory.
- Make sure females meet the criteria for being good candidates for estrus synchronization.
- Heifers should weigh 65% of their mature body weight by the start of breeding.
- At least 50% of heifers should have a reproductive tract score (RTS) ≥ 4 by two weeks prior to the start of synchronization or six to eight weeks prior to the breeding season.
- Synchronize and inseminate only cows with BCS at calving of ≥ 5 (1 = emaciated; 9.0 = obese).
- The average days postpartum of the group of cows to be synchronized should be ≥ 40 days by the start of estrus synchronization and experience a minimum of dystocia.
Things to do at the time of estrus synchronization and artificial insemination
- Meticulously follow the estrus synchronization protocol!
- If detecting estrus, spend as much time observing the animals as possible.
- Use a minimum of one person to detect estrus per 100 head of cattle.
- Use estrous detection aids to facilitate visual observation of estrus.
- Use a properly trained technician for AI.
Things to do after fixed-time artificial insemination
- To distinguish between AI and bull-bred pregnancies at pregnancy diagnosis, wait approximately 10 days to turn in clean up bulls after AI.
- Pregnancy check by 75 days after AI via ultrasound or 80 to 90 days after AI via rectal palpation to distinguish AI from bull bred pregnancies.
- If cattle need to be shipped do so between days 1 to 4 after AI and avoid shipping cattle between days 5 to 42 after AI.
- Maintain breeding females on an adequate nutrition and mineral program.
**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 email@example.com.