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Mind the Details


General considerations for implementing an artificial insemination program.

RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO (Aug. 29, 2018) — When implementing artificial insemination (AI) and other reproductive technologies, cattle producers would do well to remember that things done well will not compensate for mistakes. Rather, the mistakes can cancel out all of the things done well. That point was emphasized by South Dakota State University reproductive physiologist George Perry during the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Workshop hosted Aug. 29-30 in Ruidoso, N.M. Perry discussed mistakes producers need to avoid making before, during and after implementing an AI program.

George Perry

“If you choose a protocol requiring heat detection, use detection aids and be accurate,” said George Perry, South Dakota State University.

Producers should not assume that all heifers and cows are suitable candidates for an AI program. Perry advised his audience to give careful consideration to heifer selection, emphasizing the importance of physical and physiological maturity. Prior to breeding, heifers should have reached a suitable target weight and a reproductive tract score (RTS) of 4 or 5.

“Puberty status before breeding is critical,” emphasized Perry.

Among mature cows, AI candidates should have displayed adequate body condition [a body condition score (BCS) of 5 or better] at calving and at breeding time. Perry also noted that postpartum cows must have adequate time to recover and return to estrus before AI.

Herd vaccination is another consideration. Perry urged producers to consider how timing of vaccinations might interfere with the success of an AI program. He recommended giving replacement heifer candidates their initial vaccinations prior to weaning and boosters at the time of weaning. Subsequent vaccinations for heifers and cows should occur at least 45 days prior to breeding season. Perry urged caution when using modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines to immunize naïve heifers or purchased heifers of unknown health history prior to breeding season. Consultation with a veterinarian was recommended.

Perry advised producers to “be intentional rather than casual” about choosing and implementing programs for estrous synchronization and AI. Follow synchronization protocols to the letter, and be diligent when heat detection is used prior to insemination.

“I know of herds that have achieved better pregnancy rates to fixed-time AI because they weren’t intentional about heat detection. If you choose a protocol requiring heat detection, use detection aids and be accurate,” said Perry. “Remember, too, that timing of insemination and technique are important.”

Perry emphasized the importance of management after insemination, urging producers to avoid stress associated with abrupt change of diet and transportation after AI. While fertilization after insemination occurs more than 90% of the time, early embryo loss can occur among heifers experiencing nutritional stress or stress of transportation prior to definitive attachment of embryo and placenta, which typically occurs on Day 42 following conception.

“All of these things matter,” concluded Perry, “and you can’t make up for doing one thing wrong, even if you do everything else right.”

To read the proceedings, review the PowerPoint presentation or listen to this presentation, visit the Newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact the Angus Media editorial team at 816-383-5200.