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Mail order semen can improve beef herd

Mail order semen can improve beef herd

Beef sire catalogs are in the mail, time to order better beef genetics.

Beef sire catalogs are being delivered to mailboxes all around cattle country. Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, says there is a certain excitement when the first 2015 artificial insemination catalog arrived.

Coles says cow-calf producers flip through the pages dreaming of being able to duplicate the product of their future calf crop. However, he warns cattlemen to look beyond the pictures to the fine print. Catalogs try to paint a realistic picture of the offering yet there's a lot of salesmanship and marketing involved in both, he says.

SECURING BULL SEMEN: Sire catalogs provide cattle producers with information that will help improve their cow herd genetics.

According to Cole, catalog browsers may want to read the fine print to learn more about the conditions under which calves will perform the best. Some may even look at prices and decide they cannot afford the outstanding seed or semen.

Improving the herd

Cole says "semen shopping" in a semen catalog is the surest way to make genetic improvement in a local herd. All semen catalogs also provide synchronization protocols that can be used on either heifers or cows.

"Breeding may be done by heat detection or fixed-time artificial insemination," he says. "The latter is becoming more favored. It does require more trips through the chute but when done properly, a 60 percent conception rate is attainable. Some even hit the 70 percent mark, and sometimes the results may fall."

Even of a producer achieves the 70% mark that does not mean all females will calve within a day or two. Cole says they will likely be spread over at least a two-week period.

"Just imagine how uniform those calves will be if they are that close in birth dates," he says. "Add to that, they could be out of the same high accuracy sire. Uniformity sells, especially if they are uniformly good."

When those uniform calves — out of an outstanding AI bull with Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) in the top 25% of the breed or better for growth, carcass merit and maternal traits — hit the sale ring, buyers sit up and take note.

Missouri is becoming noted for the production of quality cattle, but producers can do better with the available technology.

At the recent Missouri Beef Summit in Columbia, speaker-after-speaker pointed out that Missouri cow-calf raisers need to embrace heat synchronization and AI to add value to calves, Cole says.

There are great opportunities to improve the genetic performance of the 2016 calf crop. Semen prices have remained fairly low compared to bull prices. Commercial semen prices are in the $20 to $30 range for top-percentile, high EPD accuracy bulls.

"You will still need good cleanup bulls but not as many if you can get 60% or better bred using artificial insemination," he notes. "AI is a good practice to make that investment in herd improvement."

Source: University of Missouri Extension

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