How Do I Profit from AI?:
A Cattle Association's Perspective
Extension agent shows how cooperation can increase profits.
by Kasey Brown, associate editor
STAUNTON, Va. (Oct. 15, 2013) — “The biggest thing to get out of this presentation is that this is not how I profit from reproduction, but how we profit from reproduction. If we work together we can be more efficient, and if we’re more efficient we can be more profitable,” said Steve Hopkins, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and Cattlemen’s association member. He spoke to more than 170 attendees of the 2013 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) Symposium in Staunton, Va., Oct. 15-16.
Producers can profit from AI by coordinating their efforts, marketing feeder calves and heifers that are uniform and genetically similar, said Steve Hopkins, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent.
He explained two cooperative efforts by cattlemen’s associations in Virginia — one offered by the Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association and another by the Central Virginia Cattlemen’s Association (CVCA). Both groups offer educational programs, both worked with Virginia Tech to find answers to common production problems, and both programs have an active service and supply program. Buckingham has an active artificial insemination (AI) program, and CVCA commingles heifers for a heifer-development program. Both programs emphasize marketing.
The Buckingham group accepts bids from AI companies for discounted rates on semen and labor. The board researches the bulls and considers the bids, then chooses two main bulls (one for heifers and one for cows) to be used by the group. The AI companies coordinate synchronization programs for each producer. Sons of the AI sires are used as cleanup bulls.
The program has allowed the 20 producers participating to group and sell feeder calves in uniform load lots that are half-siblings. Heifers can be marketed as half-siblings and even bred to the same new bull. Both steers and heifers sell at a premium.
Hopkins explained that until 2006, the CVCA group commingled and developed heifers together, AIing the heifers to a chosen sire, then using sons of the AI sire as clean-up bulls. Heifers were pregnancy-checked and the sex of the fetus was determined. Producers could take their heifers home or sell them with the group. The program was discontinued in 2006 due to the heifer market and feed costs, disappointing conception rates among commingled heifers, and some of the producers starting their own heifer-development programs.
CVCA now manages four or five sales per year, selling about 4,000 head of feeder calves per year. The cattle are sold on the board in load lots and are commingled to enhance uniformity by sorting by grade, sex, type and weight. CVCA also has a field day and tour each year with transportation and meals for buyers to come to the August sale. The field day also offers a trade show. Both programs follow up by visiting with buyers after the sale.
Their area has a unique marketing niche. Hopkins said Mennonite cattlemen like how the program uniformly packages the cattle and appreciate that the cattle have fewer respiratory problems.
Hopkins reported that the cattle often bring about $18 more than average in the August sale with the field day.
He recommended that producers work together to receive additional profit, develop an education program and purchase products to increase uniformity. Marketing is key.
“If you have a value-added product, you must market it as a value-added product,” he concluded.
Hopkins spoke during Tuesday's ARSBC session focused on how different segments of the industry profit from AI. For more information, visit the Newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com to listen to his presentation and to view his PowerPoint slides.
Comprehensive coverage of the symposium is available online at www.appliedreprostrategies.com. Compiled by the Angus Journal editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force.