March 17, 2013

Improving beef with better bulls


Beef cattle have very strong flight reflexes and under stress will try to barrel through gates and fences that normally keep them in just fine. Corrals and head gates need to be designed with human safety in mind as well since artificial breeders appreciate working in a safe environment. I built my corral in a centrally located area of the farm which allows easy access and easy routing of the cattle to be bred. Using plans available from Cooperative Extension, a corral and chute can be built at a reasonable cost in a few days.

The second challenge is actually catching your beef cows in estrus. Unlike dairy cows which are usually kept in barns and being milked twice a day, beef cattle are out on pasture being nursed by their calves. Unless they are being fed on a regular basis, observing them for estrus does take additional time and patience.

Starting about three to four weeks after calving, cows will begin a regular three-week estrus cycle. Using a chart available from your local AI representative, start noting and marking down each time you see a cow in estrus. This is made much easier by good identification tags.

When the breeding season begins, I spend about a half hour each morning and evening walking among the cows and observing for signs of estrus. Having noticed previous estrus periods makes it much easier to spot them on the expected day. Regular and patient observation is necessary.

Once you have observed the cow in standing heat and have secured her in your barn or corral, who is going to breed her? Part of planning to breed your cows artificially would be to contact your local AI representative and talk with them about your plans. If you are in an area without regular AI breeding services, you can equip yourself, go to a training course and learn to breed cows yourself. Since I was formerly an AI technician, I bought a liquid nitrogen tank, selected and purchased semen from a variety of top rated bulls and started breeding my herd several years ago.

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