While many cow-calf producers shy away from artificial insemination because of the extensive management requirements, Ron Lemenager, Purdue beef specialist, says incorporating an estrous synchronization program into the breeding plan can reduce time spent detecting estrous and increase the number of cows bred in the first week of the breeding season.
"Cow numbers are the lowest since 1952. This puts the cow-calf producers in the driver's seat if they play their cards right," he says. "A bred cow is worth about twice as much as an open cow, so it's important to get these cows bred as early as possible."
Getting cows bred the first week of the breeding season helps ensure that calves are older and heavier at weaning. It also means more uniform calves.
Lemenager recommended that producers consider an estrous synchronization program such as the 5 Day CO-Synch + CIDR. The CIDR is a controlled internal drug-releasing insert that contains progesterone and can "jump-start" cows to enter the estrous cycle sooner. This five-day day protocol allows producers to eliminate the labor associated with estrus detection and breed cows by timed artificial insemination.
"Work done at Purdue, Ohio State and other universities has demonstrated that the use of the 5 Day CO-Synch + CIDR protocol is very effective in getting cows bred to artificial insemination sires," he says. "The advantage to using this type of protocol is that it synchronizes estrous behavior, the follicular waves and, ultimately, the ovulation more effectively than other protocols used in TAI."
Other protocols for those interested in synchronizing estrous can be found at www.thebeefcenter.com under "reproduction."
Before entering the breeding season and selecting an estrous synchronization protocol, producers need to make sure the animals are ready.
"Cows need to be in moderate body condition and they need to be approaching 45 days postpartum," he says.
In addition to an estrous synchronization program, sire selection will play an important role in getting cows bred to bulls that will minimize dystocia, or calving problems. Replacement heifers are most susceptible to dystocia and are prime candidates for estrus synchronization and AI.
"The use of artificial insemination allows us to individually mate cows to bulls that will optimize performance," Lemenager says. "It easily facilitates crossbreeding and allows the use of proven bulls for traits such as calving ease, growth and carcass characteristics. It also minimizes the potential for disease transmission."
Regardless of the breeding protocol selected, Lemenager said that producers need to plan ahead to have a successful breeding program."Depending on the estrous synchronization protocol, it can take anywhere from eight to 33 days to complete the process," he says. "That means producers need to look at their first breeding date and plan accordingly. If they want cows to start calving on Feb. 1, they need to have them bred in late April. Now is a great time to start preparing."