October 14, 2009
Artificial insemination, (A.I.) has been a viable technology since the 1940s and has changed the genetic structure of the national dairy herd. As of 2008, only about six percent of all beef cattle producers utilized A.I. and/or estrus synchronization in their beef production.
Genex Dakota Sire Service Manager Jeff Gerlach says the company sees interest in and use of A.I. growing.
“This facility was built in the late 1990s,” Gerlach says. “Hawkeye Breeders in Adel, IA developed the company. It was sold to Genex in 2007.”
Genex Dakota Sire Service features 86 bull pens and houses between 90 and 120 bulls at the height of the breeding season. Approximately 400 bulls and 400,000 units of semen are processed at Genex Dakota Sire Service each year. It’s one of five Genex Custom Collection facilities. The other four sites are in Alabama, Louisiana, Montana and Missouri.
The Mitchell facility is located in the heart of cattle country. Because of its excellent location and proximity to some of the top herds in the area, there are many visitors each year.
Purebred breeders are most likely to use A.I., however the importance of superior genetics is causing the benefits of A.I. to become more attractive to commercial producers as well.
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“You can get more calves out of a good bull with A.I.,” Gerlach says. “It also gives every producer access to the best genetics in the world. Genex sends semen all over the world. This facility sends semen to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Some of the best bulls in the world are found in the western states.”
Use of A.I. has been shown to increase efficiency of bull usage in several ways. In addition to making an animal’s genetics more available for breeding purposes, daily semen collection leads to increased supply for a larger number of cattle. A.I. allows easy transportation and long term storage of semen, which means high quality bulls can produce offspring long after their natural reproductive life ends.
The best bulls can be selected for reproduction and offspring can be used in progeny test programs to more accurately evaluate a bull’s genetic value. Producers can reduce the cost of maintaining a bull, which can include feed and special housing and handling equipment. They also reduce the risk of losing a bull.
“A.I. is a lot safer than maintaining your own bull,” Gerlach says. “You also eliminate the risk of injuring cows.”
Risk of disease is also greatly reduced through use of A.I. Screening for disease agents can reduce potential for transmitting disease pathogens through semen. Infertility issues are also greatly reduced due to the quality checks conducted by Genex.
“When a rancher buys a high quality bull, he may want to make those genetics available to other ranchers too,” Gerlach says. “With custom collection that’s fairly easy to accomplish. If a rancher has a large herd of cows that one bull couldn’t service, he’ll be able to get more calves out that bull with A.I.”
A 2008 Mississippi State University Extension Service study involving a herd of 85 cows found that perceived costs often deter producers from utilizing A.I. and demonstrated that beef producers may be able to reduce costs through use of A.I. The study documented that average bull ownership costs – including purchase, maintenance and risk management – totaled $1,485 per year. The study’s annual total costs for use of A.I. – including drug and semen costs, technician fees and additional labor – totaled $4,012.
Although initial costs for A.I. are higher than use of traditional mating, increased revenue can be realized through use of superior genetics. In the MSU study an additional weaning weight of 25 lbs/head was realized and fertility rates in the herd were improved by eight percent. Total increased revenue was calculated at $4,817.
“With beef industry profit margins the way they are, obtaining the best possible genetic traits in your herd is critical to successful production,” Gerlach says. “Whether you’re looking for improved performance, better quality mother cows or high quality replacement heifers, you get a better focus on those traits with A.I.”
Sexed semen is the latest improvement in A.I. technology, allowing producers to control the gender of calves in a method that results in the most profit for their operation. Genex offers a 90 percent product. The GenChoice™ sexed semen product line is currently available in GenChoice 90™ with the options of male or female-sorted semen.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand for it already,” Gerlach says. “The process includes quality control points to ensure that the semen meets required standards. Use of sexed semen is currently recommended for heifers.”
Seedstock producers desiring females and foreign countries attempting to create a better beef animal without dealing with the resulting heifers have been the primary users of sexed semen.
“We’ve seen growth in the use of A.I. nearly every year,” Gerlach says. “Like everything else, as the technology improves the costs keep going down. Because A.I. has been so successful, use of this type of service will continue to be a real advantage to producers.”
more information about genex dakota sire service is available at http://genex.crinet.com or call 605-996-9100.