Building Better Beef with AI
If you've been following along with our journey, you know that we have been starting a new Black Angus herd. We bought purebred registered and commercial heifers from a reputable Central California Coast ranch. As well, we bought a bull from another well known ranch in Kansas.
The difference between purebred and commercial cattle:
Purebred cattle have more data recorded and are used for breeding stock and producing better genetic potential within herds.
Commercial cattle aren't as monitored and are typically sold at an auction or marketed as beef animals.
Part of our game plan is to AI (artificially inseminate) some of our older commercial girls and our new registered girls.
Why AI when we have a good bull? Great question.
We want to AI with other outstanding bulls that have proven genetics to take our herd in a direction of success within a decent time frame. We want to move our momentum forward to provide better, consistent beef for our customers. In addition, we want to diversify our potential by incorporating other great bull genetics to our girls. That way, we can keep a bull calf we like to have in our herd eventually or sell bulls/heifers to other ranchers to increase profitability and potential.
Our bull we bought from Kansas is our "clean up bull." Now, a clean up bull is the guy getting the girls who did not have a successful AI. Typically, AI success rates are around 60% +/-. So, we are artificially insemenating 14 girls this year, which means about 7-8 on average will get pregnant with an outside bull. Then, we will release our Kansas bull (who we call Ashland) in with the ladies to take care of anyone who didn't get bred through AI. In about 60 days after letting Ashland in with our girls, we will do a blood test to check for pregnancy in our herd.
Again, the benefit to AI is to diversify our genetics. We will keep any heifers and some bulls with potential to implement back into our breeding program especially from our purebred girls. Ashland has great numbers for building great beef so his offspring will be best suited for our beef program for our locals. Anything that comes out of the AI breeding, we will keep for our herd to grow or to sell as seed stock (breeding animals).
The AI Protocol We Used:
We are working with a veterinarian to get our medications to make this whole timed AI situation work as smooth as possible. Yes, timed AI.. Which means all the girls we are planning to breed with these outside bulls are given certain medications and products to have them all come into heat at the same time.
Poor Ashland is nearby the girls and he is feeling the pain..
a few weeks ago, we inserted a progesterone coated implant called a CIDR into the heifers and cows intravaginally. This helps everyone synchronize into estrus. We also gave each cow an injection of Fertagyl which helps drop an egg. A week later, we pull out the CIDR and give another injection of Lutalyse which helps improve success in pregnancy. Then, we added a pretty cool scratch-off style heat indicator sticker on the tail head of each girl. Within 54ish hours, the herd should be ready to breed.
We were connected with a gentleman who is associated within the Angus Association. Jason AI's cattle all over the nation and collects semen on bulls to freeze and save in a bovine cryobank. What an interesting job! Genetics are so fun and it is so beneficial to network with an expert in the Angus world. We are so appreciative of our "AI Guy", Jason.
Signs To Watch For:
The big question is.. How do you know it is time to breed?
When the heat/estrous indicator sticker is completely scratched off exposing a bright color (ours was a neon yellow) that female is ready to be bred. The sticker is rubbed off by other females mounting one another. A female is ready to be bred when she is in "standing heat," which is just that. She is standing waiting to be bred. Other common signs to watch for is balling (mooing), everyone following one specific female around the pen, resting a head on the backside of the female in heat and mounting.
We are over-the-moon excited to see black calves hit the ground this fall! We are excited to ramp up our production and increase our overall potential in our operation.
Several old school ranchers have told us "You're not going to make money if you stay in the cattle business." I say, we will prove them wrong and I hope we make them proud.
I will never disrespect my elders and idols within the industry, but truth is: Things change and people don't like change.
Change is what keeps life interesting. We are always evolving and to trying keep up with the latest and greatest. Improvements are always happening. Research and studies are continuously being released. There is so much to learn and grow upon in the cattle/beef industry.
Bryce and I both agree that by moving in the purebred direction, it will push us to reach for our main goal; to provide San Diego the best quality beef possible.
Okay, girls. Please be pregnant. Fingers crossed!