From the Fall 2022 issue of the Isa Informer
By Lorenzo Lasater, President
One of the most valuable genetic tools available to ranchers is artificial insemination, or A.I. In fact, there are so many benefits, using A.I. is a natural choice, even in a commercial operation. For example, A.I. allows the use of the very top genetics, it groups the calves closer in age and front-loads the calving period, and it means fewer bulls have to be turned out.
In addition to these advantages, A.I. enables an operator to multiply the influence of a top sire—beyond what that bull could contribute naturally, and maybe best of all, operators gain more predicable genetic movement using higher-accuracy EPDs.
At Isa Beefmasters, we have been incorporating A.I. into our herd planning for decades. Dad first learned the technique in 1964 at the Graham School in Garnett, Kansas. He began using A.I. in our registered herd in Mexico in 1965. This year marks 57 years of continuous use of this incredible technology!
To quantify our R.O.I. on A.I., I did a little analysis on two groups of cattle, recently sold, in which Isa Beefmasters was involved.
The first sale occurred at the Red River Performance Group Heifer Sale held May 21, 2022. We were pleased to consign three L Bar heifers to the sale, which featured 76 excellent quality, performance-tested open heifers. The sale averaged $3567, a tremendous price for that number of open heifers. The high seller brought only $7300, making this an honest average.
In a previous article published in the Fall 2020 Isa Informer, I estimated that it costs around $82 to A.I. a registered cow, including semen. In this case, that was $82 well spent, yielding a net gain of $116 on the heifers on the sale. L Bar-sired heifers fared even better, netting an additional $494 over the sale average after the cost of the A.I.
I want to congratulate the Red River Group on their “Genetic Partnership,” in which they have partnered with breeders who have semen sires they believe will help the program and have made the semen available at a discounted price to their members. Isa Beefmasters is proud to have L Bar En Fuego and L Bar Momentum included in the partnership. Red River encourages their members to A.I., which in turn improves the quality and consistency of the bulls and heifers sold. That value extends to their own replacement heifers, with the accuracy and quality of their herd EPDs increasing rapidly. To learn more about the program, visit: www.redriverbeefmastersale.com
We experience a similar financial boost in our own annual bull sale. At Isa Beefmasters, all our cattle are generically named L Bar plus a 4-digit number (e.g., L Bar 2104). We only name the semen sires, so they are easily identifiable. Though most of the bulls we sell each fall go into commercial operations, the buyers recognize the additional value and predictability of those A.I.-sired bulls and will pay more for them.
The chart at right details our 2021 bull sale results. You can see a $484-per-head advantage for the A.I.-sired calves, which is a welcome boost to the bottom line.
Producers often cite cost, labor and facilities as the usual reasons why they do not use A.I. I will admit that it is a bit labor intensive, with most protocols requiring three or four trips down the chute. But the rewards far outweigh the work, and you will likely be working them at least once pre-breeding anyway. At $82 per head, the cost is manageable, especially when you crunch the numbers.
A.I. is a tremendous tool for making faster genetic progress in any operation that is willing to put in the extra effort. You will be able to use superior genetics, tighten your calving window, increase your pregnancy rates and reduce your bull needs. It is not without some extra labor and expense, but it really is a winning strategy that more than pays for itself and yields many important benefits. In these two examples, you can see how the effort was well rewarded, adding significant value the final product—a financial boost I will gladly pocket any year.
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