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That Ranching Life

The voice of the America cattle rancher is not often heard, living in some of the most remote regions of the United States. This is there chance to share the lifestyle and the west as they know it!

Start to Finish Breeding Services for the Beef Industry

Originally published in the Summer 2018 Issue of the Cattle Mag.

The ever changing impacts of today’s growing population and decreasing ranch lands has increased the pressure on ranchers to provide more product with less animals.

No matter the size of the operation, the chance to boost reproductive efficiency is an opportunity any ranch can capitalize on. Thanks to start-to-finish breeding services, such as Genex and All West/Select Sires, and their professionally trained teams, ranchers are using Artificial Insemination practices and supplementation nutritional programs to take the cattle industry into the future.

A study by the University of Georgia Extension noted that “reproductive efficiency has long been recognized as the most important aspect of commercial beef production. If only 50 percent of the cows wean a calf, crossbreeding, superior genetics and sound management become insignificant.”

The variation in a calf-crop can be the difference between profit and loss for a rancher, according to Genex’s website, a start to service breeding service business focused on member and customer profit. Not just that, but most ranchers find themselves required to send almost the entirety of their calf-crop to market in order to make their bill payments for the year. This results in a smaller number of replacement heifers kept back and slows the growth of the operation.

These breeding service operations focus on a successful re-breeding program by providing strategic supplementation to the programs that are already used on ranches.

Prices depend upon variables such as the body conditioning of cows and heifers at the time of calving, the nutrition levels of cows and heifers, and strategic breeding through the versatile bull services that AI provides.

Erin Bronson, area marketing manager of Genex Beef, explains that “inadequate nutrition will result in delayed breeding, later calving dates, and a decreased calf crop percentage. Body conditioning of a pre-calving cow will influence her post-calving feed needs, as well as her rebreeding performance.”

These services also provide an opportunity to work with a veterinarian and nutritionist to formulate a successful plan and to check the breeding-soundness of the herd bull, if you are not ready to move to a 100 percent AI program.

Breeding services operations can do as much or as little as you require of them. The amount of labor that a ranch provides during the breeding service is also up to the rancher. These businesses provide all of their own chutes, breeding barns (mobile trailers), synchronization of heifers and cows, AI arm service and more.

Ranchers can bring their own laborers to work with the breeding services team, or those hired hands can continue with their day-to-day activities. This provides the rancher with the economic benefit of not pulling labor out of other tasks, and outsourcing to professionals who are joined by a professionally trained team, proper and safe equipment, and high goals for the success of the breeding operation.

Breeding services provide an opportunity for obtaining the best genetics for your program through a catalog of national bulls to give the rancher a upper hand at refining their end goal. The desire to move to AI for many producers is that the catalog and online bulls are tested and purchased throughout the year on the best progeny that are available.

Through Genex’s online catalog, you can enter a breed or a name, and subsequently pull up a list of bulls whose genetics you can introduce into your herd based on their Expected Progeny Difference (EPD). If EPD’s are a foreign subject, a representative from one of these companies can meet to provide consultation and recommendations for the ranch.

One of the main benefits of capitalizing on a breeding service opportunity in your area, is that for the commercial producer, they are going to see a smaller calving season window that will provide a uniform weight in the cattle at market time.

Cutting down on manpower becomes an opportunity when the ranch is seeing a two week calving window versus a two to three month calving season. When it is time to go to market, these uniform calves are going to provide more weight on the truck heading to the sale yard with a smaller number of calves, allowing the ranch the luxury of holding back a larger number of replacement heifers (see infographic).

These are not free pounds, but it gives a more unified calf-crop and, if trying to fill truckloads of cattle to get to market, it’ll actually put fewer calves on the truck while still attaining the same amount of pounds.

In some scenarios, you can go from a two-axle to enough calves and pounds to put together a three-axle trailer. That weight difference is 45,000/48,000 to 63,000 (depending on location); a large gap that made up for by just getting your cows to calve at the first part of the calving season.  

Breeding service companies do warn that the implementation of reproductive efficiency and AI does take a number of years before the desired goals are seen.

“If you commit to it [nutritional program, synchronization, sire selection, and AI] for a half-decade, the number of heifers and cows bred in the first week will increase as cows are consistently being bred earlier,” explained Clint Sexson of All West/Select Sires.

    There are a variety of added benefits to using a breeding service that might not initially come to mind. Specifically in the northwest United States, due to the nature of the regions’ ranching systems with the combination of Forest Service permits, BLM permits, and common lands (where neighbors share permits), ranchers have an increasing importance to not take bulls out onto their permits.

    If the ranchers can synchronize cows and AI early, they can have somewhere between 50 to 60 days before they have to move the herd to the permits where they are grazing in common without the bulls.

    From a health and reproductive management perspective, this lowers the risk for reproductive diseases, as well as lowers the amount of labor it takes to bring in bulls from out of the country during intense heat. With cows and heifers calving earlier, this also provides larger calves to travel to the permits. For example, a calf that is 45-days-old-when turned out onto range will be a lot better off than one that is 21-days-old.

The costs of breeding AI can be substantially cheaper, not only when looking at labor and cost during breeding season, but in the cost of day-to-day owning a bull. A premiere bull sold at a bull sale could go as high as $750,000 for the top genetics.

AI provides a more affordable cost at roughly $45 to $55 per synchronized female which includes synchronization drugs, semen, and arm service, with the biggest variable being the cost of the semen straw.

Costs depends on the ranchers’ background in AI, but the more that the ranchers learn, either from workshops or the breeding service team, the more they can do themselves. Genex puts on periodic AI training classes that can also help cut down on future costs. Discounts for bulk and other deals can be managed by working with the business’ local representative.

As ranchers find themselves with more rigorous demands, the opportunities for growing their ranching operation and increasing profits are all available by using modern technology and proven programs available to attain a successful and lucrative efficiency.