The Process of Artificially Inseminating a Cow

Clif Little, OSU Extension Guernsey County

What are some logical steps in utilizing artificial insemination (AI) on the farm?  We will assume cows and heifers are good candidates for a synchronization program.  However, months prior to AI implementation review the desired cow and heifer physiological condition and factors that influence response to AI.  As with any new venture, it is beneficial to first observe the AI process.  There are many steps to the process, and the timing and flow of work are of utmost importance to the success of AI.

The best way to visualize the proper workflow is to see the process in action on a farm utilizing the protocol which one intends to implement. Ask the local Extension Educator for examples of farms utilizing AI, and if possible, visit and or assist in the process as a guest. This experience will provide a more complete image of how to adopt AI to one’s unique facility.  Attend an AI school.  Semen providers and some universities provide excellent AI courses.  Practice AI on beef cattle reproductive tracts prior to attempting on live animals, AI schools should provide this opportunity.  Seek the Continue reading

Pasture Management, “I read on the internet that . . .”

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

A promising sign of better times ahead. Photo by Ben Miller

My dear mother always said that the older you get, the faster time goes, she was right.  Time gets away from me.

This issue marks the one hundred and fiftieth time that I have sat down to write the article I call “Grazing Bites.”  I started this twelve and half years ago in 2008 to help producers that I was working with think about what they needed to be looking at and how they needed to prepare for the upcoming weeks.  It was an attempt or way to do follow-up with a lot of producers and landowners and provide helpful reminders for whatever situation or season was upon them.  I never dreamed that it would continue this long or be picked up, reprinted, and read by so many people.  That is scary and humbling at the same time.

Almost every issue has initiated an email or phone call from someone, occasionally a whole bunch.  I appreciate those responses because it lets me know that my effort and time were not completely in vain and it ignited a thought or change that hopefully benefited them.  I’ve gotten some constructive criticism over the years, but mainly because they thought I was being a bit too bias on grass-based systems, which is probably true.  I have also enjoyed some very interesting questions along the way.  I’ve had to stop and scratch my head wondering about a question coming from not only faraway states, but also a few from outside the country.  I try and provide good sound advice, based on personal experiences, in a way that anyone can understand and utilize it, and I hope that everyone finds a bit of useful information in it, at least occasionally.  Let’s talk about a few of those questions that are applicable right now.

“I read on the internet that….”  Okay, stop right there.  Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s valid.  I truly believe that we need to Continue reading

Male Reproductive Traits and Their Heritabilities in Beef Cattle

– K. M. Cammack M. G. Thomas and R. M. Enns, published in The Professional Animal Scientist 25 ( 2009 ):517–528, and condensed from the original manuscript by Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Male Reproductive Measures
Measures of fertility need to be considered not only in the female, but also in the male. Natural service has historically been, and continues to be, used in most beef cattle operations; therefore, acceptable bull fertility is critical to the success of these operations. Bull management is highly intertwined with female fertility, bull fertility, and cow management. Bull fertility may be affected by the number of cows a particular bull is expected to service and, in natural mating, the length of the mating period, as well as the serving capacity of the bulls. Fertility measures may be superficially increased in bulls exposed to a small number of cows during a lengthy breeding season. However, determining the proper bull-to-cow ratio is challenging because these influences are in addition to issues of pasture size and topography, multiple water sources within a pasture, and behavior

Scrotal Circumference
Scrotal circumference is used to predict the quality and quantity of spermatozoa-producing tissue and age at puberty. A scrotal circumference measurement of 28 to 30 cm is generally associated with onset of puberty; specifically, 52 and 97% of males are pubertal when scrotal circumference is 28 and 30 cm, respectively. Increased scrotal circumference has been associated with increased sperm production but decreased semen quality. Reported heritability estimates for scrotal circumference were generally Continue reading

Weekly Livestock Comments for June 26, 2020

– Dr. Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

FED CATTLE: Fed cattle traded $4 to $5 lower compared to last week on a live basis. Prices on a live basis primarily ranged from $93 to $97 while dressed prices ranged from $152 to $156.

The 5-area weighted average prices thru Thursday were $96.24 live, down $4.58 compared to last week and $154.78 dressed, down $5.96 from a week ago. A year ago, prices were $110.58 live and $179.36 dressed.

Finished cattle prices have converged to live cattle futures with the cash market making the long trek to meet the futures price. The failure of the futures market to bend in the slightest is not a good sign for summer cattle marketing. The June con-tract is rolling off which makes the August contract the next destination and it is trading ever so slightly higher than the June contract. The answer to this market turning around is most likely to show up in finished cattle weights. Once finished cattle weights begin to decline, the price for finished cattle will find support. The reason a decline in finished weight will be the turn-around will be because it will Continue reading

Cull Cow Market Dynamics

– Josh Maples, Assistant Professor & Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

No segment of the cattle industry has been spared from the uncertainty and turmoil driven by COVID-19. However, the dynamics for the slaughter cow market have been a little different than those for the live cattle coming from feedlots that have garnered the most discussion due to plant disruptions.

Slaughter cow prices have been one of the few bright spots for cattle producers over the past few months. Slaughter cow prices in the Southern Plains averaged $57.84 over the past 6 weeks of available data which is 19.5 percent above the same period in 2019. Generally, cull cow markets are most directly related with ground beef demand.

Cull cow slaughter comes from both beef and dairy cows. In 2019, the split for total federally inspected cow slaughter was about 50/50 between beef and dairy cows. But the seasonal patterns of beef and dairy cow slaughter are a little different. Dairy cow slaughter typically Continue reading

Oats as a late summer forage crop

Jason Hartschuh and Al Gahler, OSU Extension AgNR Educators (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

Fungicide application significantly reduced the presence of rust.

Oats is traditionally planted as the first crop in early April as a grain crop or an early season forage. One of the beauties of oats is its versatility in planting date. Oats can also be planted in the summer as an early fall forage for harvest or grazing.

Summer oats has a wide planting window but performs much better with an application of nitrogen and may benefit from a fungicide application to improve quality. During the summer of 2019 we conducted a study to examine the planting of oats from July 15th through early September to examine tonnage and forage quality. Through this trial we examined planting date, yield, forage quality and an application of foliar fungicide to control oats crown rust.

Usually the best scenario for growing oats for forage is to plant them into wheat stubble, which is normally available by mid-July at the latest. However, the typical recommendation is to plant oats between August 1st and 10th to maximize tonnage and quality, since the shorter day length triggers oats to grow more leaf instead of Continue reading

Forage management and cow size

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Increased Hay Production per Cow: The increased use of the round baler and other hay production technologies since the early and mid-1970s (Van Keuren, OARDC –  The History of the Development of the Large Round Bale) has lowered the labor requirement and increased the convenience of hay production. Hay production per cow in the southeastern United States has increased by 136% (USDA NASS, 2016) since 1976. Reliance on stored forages by cow-calf producers is can be challenge to sustainable production.

Cow Size: There has been a 30% increase in cow mature size over the last 30 years. From 1975 to 2015, cow numbers have decreased by 35%, but beef production has been maintained at a level similar to 1975 (Beck, Gadberry, Gunter, Kegley, Jennings, 2017). Correspondingly, market steer and heifer weights have increased.  This also due to selecting bulls for increased yearling weights.

Forage Management: The larger the cow, the more forage is needed per cow. Forage management strategies have been developed to reduce reliance on stored forages for wintering beef cows. Beck et al. (2017) lists rotational grazing increases Continue reading

Female Reproductive Traits and Their Heritabilities in Beef Cattle

– K. M. Cammack M. G. Thomas and R. M. Enns, published in The Professional Animal Scientist 25 ( 2009 ):517–528, and condensed from the original manuscript by Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Female Reproductive Measures
Biological and economical efficiencies of cow-calf production are largely dependent on successful reproduction. Improvements in reproductive performance can be up to 4-fold more important than improvements in end-product traits in a conventional cow-calf operation selling market calves at weaning. Whereas estimates of heritability for many reproductive traits are low, some exist that have moderate heritabilities, and there are important genetic correlations between reproductive traits and other production traits that are moderately to highly heritable.

Beef female fertility has been recorded and measured in a multitude of ways, including age at first calving, calving date, first insemination conception (nonreturn rate), days to first breeding (days open), pregnancy rate, calving interval, longevity, and stayability.

Age at Puberty
Age at puberty is used as a measure of heifer fertility and may influence subsequent reproductive trait performance. Reproductively efficient heifers reach puberty earlier, and therefore can potentially conceive earlier in the breeding season. Cumulatively, it should be noted that age of puberty had a Continue reading

Aborting Heifers Bred by Mistake

– Dr. Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

I had to lean on the knowledge and expertise of Dr. Justin Rhinehart this week with a beef cattle reproduction question. My question to Dr. Rhinehart related to the most economical route to abort heifers because the neighbors bull visited this week.

The key to his response was mainly timing based on when the bull was removed and when I planned on marketing these heifers. For the sake of brevity, my alternatives were to determine pregnancy status of all the heifers exposed and then provide a prostaglandin shot to those found to be bred or to give all of the heifers a prostaglandin shot.

In simple terms, the prostaglandin shot needs to be administered between 10 days after the bull was removed and 30 days after his removal for the best results. The reason this is important is because pregnant heifers in the feedlot is bad for the feedlot and bad for the person who sold the animals. A bunch of bred heifers could tarnish a person’s reputation as a feeder cattle producer and it would all be for something that would cost about $5 per head.