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GENUS ABS IS HELPING BEEF PRODUCERS TO MAXIMISE THEIR PROFITABILITY THROUGH THE USE OF ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION.
Artificial Insemination (AI) can provide a significant tool in helping producers to fulfill these goals. However, concerns about the cost and practicalities of implementing an AI programme often deter producers from pursuing the technology. As a result, AI continues to be significantly underutilized by the beef industry.
Jocelyn Orr, Beef Brand Manager, Genus ABS is on a mission to raise awareness of and tackle some of the common misconceptions about AI and the beef herd: “AI is undoubtedly one of the most effective tools available in helping to facilitate the genetic improvement, productivity and profitability of a beef operation. The benefits are broad, for example producers can analyse Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) to select bulls based on their genetic merit. A good stock bull can cost anything from ￡2000, excluding the additional costs of feeding, housing and maintenance. Consequently, AI provides a much more efficient use of capital investment. Furthermore, the key factors that influence the price of livestock are significantly affected by genetics, for example, growth and conformation,” commented Jocelyn.
To support her awareness drive, Jocelyn has interviewed several beef producers who are successfully using AI on their herd, to find out how others can benefit from their approach. One such producer is Richard Tudor – he runs a spring-calving suckler herd from his 700 acre farm in Mid Wales. Richard operates a 15% herd replacement rate and aims to produce approximately 130 calves each year. To achieve this and maintain an efficient operation, Richard’s breeding programme aims to maximise the number of calves born during the first 21 days of the calving season.
Richard recognised that that there was scope to improve the number of calves being born in this period and eight years ago sought help from Genus ABS to introduce AI into his herd. “My aim is to have 100% of my cows calve during the first period. It’s a tall order, but with time I think it’s achievable. This year, 90% calved within the first six weeks and more importantly, every single animal successfully produced a calf,” said Richard.
“Calves born in the first 21 days have longer to gain weight and subsequently attract a higher sale value. Whilst on their mother my animals tend to gain around 1kg in weight each day. Therefore, a calf born at the end of the second period could weigh as much as 40kg less when sold, compared to that of a calf born in the first period. Last year, by having more cows conceive in the first cycle I managed to sell 20 calves that weighed an additional 10kg, purely due to them having those extra days growing time,” continued Richard.
Richard explained that AI is also helping to alleviate his concerns about the risk of injury and illness to his bulls, when there are too many cows to serve. “Realistically, for my 120 cow herd I would need at least seven bulls. However, by using AI alongside the bull it means I only have a requirement for four bulls on farm. At a cost of between ￡500 and ￡600 per year, per bull, AI is not only helping to reduce the pressure placed on my bulls, but it’s also helping to save on the costs associated with keeping a bull on farm – it gives you the ‘bullpower’ you need, without the bulls!” continued Richard.
Jocelyn also interviewed beef producer, Philip Jones. He manages a 100 head, 400acre beef suckler herd in Carmarthenshire, Wales and has held organic status for ten years. Philip prides himself on his progressive approach and is a keen adopter of new technology. His industry leading attitude was recognised by Farmers Weekly in 2013, when he was crowned ‘Beef Farmer of the Year.’ Philip aim’s to operate a simple, resilient and efficient suckler production system that can be managed by one person alone. To achieve this he focuses on achieving maximum output from a low cost, low input system and as such, he is ruthlessly efficient and has a keen eye for profit.
In the past Philip found that his organic status impacted on his ability to source his required volume of heifer replacements. “Being an organic farm, I found that my hands were tied when it came to buying-in replacements, so it made sense to move to a closed herd. Unfortunately, it was very hard at first and our cow numbers fell,” said Philip.
Five years ago Philip decided he needed to take positive action to overcome his issue of managing replacement stock levels. He took the significant step of simultaneously introducing Genus ABS’ AI and Reproductive Management System (RMS) services.
Philip is delighted with the results of his AI programme. His sales representative, John Phillips and AI Technician, Myles Land are integral to the success of the AI programme: “I’ve got a fantastic relationship with Myles – he’s very keen to do the right thing for the farm and always provides me with the best possible guidance. Myles has challenged my thinking when it comes to getting my animal’s in-calf. The introduction of RMS was a real game changer – whilst my aim was to produce more calves and introduce a tighter calving period, RMS has delivered this and so much more,” said Philip.
“It’s crucial that any misconceptions associated with the use of AI on the beef herd are quashed. In the current economic climate consumers are increasingly turning to cheaper sources of protein, such as chicken and pork, therefore making it more important than ever before to drive beef efficiencies. We must plan for the future and adopt the new technologies that will enable us to continually progress and create a sustainable industry,” Jocelyn concluded.
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