Bad habits. We all have them. They are often developed as a way to get the job done faster or easier, but that doesn’t always mean the job is done right. Members of the GENEX A.I. training team share the most common bad habits they witness on farms. If you are victim of these bad habits, accept that you’ve made them and begin paving your path to improvement.
According to Carlos Marin and Javier Cheang, here are the five most common bad A.I. habits they see on farms today.
1) Over confidence. Once an individual has gained experience breeding cows, it is easy to try to skip steps. Don't! Every step is important to achieving good results.
2) Pulling the gun out instead of pushing the plunger when depositing semen. This is very common. To properly deposit semen, push the plunger half way and then double-check placement of the tip of the gun. If the tip is in the right place (through the cervix and just into the uterine body), deposit the second half of the semen.
3) Depositing frozen semen. The Pocket Thaw™ method is easy to do, but sometimes not enough time is allowed for the semen to thaw properly (should thaw in pocket for 2-3 minutes). If the cow is located really close to where the gun is being loaded, it is better to opt for the water thaw method.
4) Dirt, grime and slime. This is a combination of several instances where a little extra time and effort can yield big results. Wrap the loaded A.I. gun in a clean breeding sleeve. Often breeders place the guns directly into their shirt, but remember, whatever is put into the cow's reproductive tract is going to stay there. If the gun was not wrapped, it could mean way more than just semen is being deposited (e.g., sweat, lint, dust, manure, deodorant). Clean the semen thawing vessels. It is common to find slimy water in thaw vessels. This is a good source of contamination for semen straws and A.I. guns. Also check that the thermometer is working properly. The water must be between 95 to 98° F (35-37°C). Clean those gunky pockets in A.I. gun warmers. If using a gun warmer, make sure to clean and wash the inside pocket often. Clean contaminated A.I. guns. Guns should be cleaned at least once a week with warm water, but never add detergent. Let them dry standing upright. Spray them with alcohol to help with disinfection. Clean manure off the vulva. Be sure to clean the vulva with a paper towel prior to inserting the A.I. gun to prevent contamination.
5) Raising the canister above the semen tank frost line. Be careful when removing semen from the tank. Lifting the canister above the frost line exposes the remaining semen straws to room temperatures and starts the thawing process, thus providing opportunity for sperm damage.
After making the progressive decision to implement artificial insemination (A.I.) into your herd, there is one big word to focus on: STOCKMANSHIP. Stockmanship is the knowledgeable and skillful handling of livestock in a safe, efficient, effective and low stress manner (Stockmanship Journal).
While it’s important to practice good stockmanship skills whenever handling cattle, it’s especially important when you have a group of females set up for A.I. You have to realize this is the third time in 20 days the females have gone through your facilities, you have manipulated their hormones and, if you’re A.I.ing cows, there are now calves involved. That might sound like a lot of hassle, but the results next spring or fall will be well worth it!
Here are a few simple points about stockmanship during an A.I. project that will make your day
much more enjoyable.
1. Get the right crew
That means the right cowboy crew. GENEX will provide you with an excellent breeding crew. You can count on that!
Get your crew involved and excited about the A.I. project before it starts. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about showing up on time, making certain someone is in charge of supplies, sharing the value of A.I. and reminding them this is a little different than branding or weaning day.
When it comes to gathering, sorting and getting cattle through the A.I. barn, nothing is worse than having people there who don’t believe in what you are doing. If your cowboy crew is excited about A.I. day, they are calmer, more patient and easier on the cattle. All these things translate to more pregnancies and more money in your pocket.
When it comes to the cowboy crew, remember less is more. Less people with more experience and patience yield better results almost every time. The right crew will be the difference in your success.
2. Facility design
When it comes to facilities, it’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel; it’s about making sure everything is in the right place so you can do more with less. With a virgin heifer A.I. project, you can usually leave everything the way it is for everyday use. Not much sorting needs to happen, and facilities are usually designed to process yearling size cattle.
With an A.I. project involving mature cows, her calf is added to the equation, but it’s not that bad! Anyone who has A.I.ed mature cows will tell you the first time they were a little uneasy, because they didn’t know what to expect. In the years to follow, it just becomes part of the process.
GENEX can help with minor changes to your facilities to get pairs split in a safe, low stress and efficient manner. Little things, such as removing the bottom two rails of a panel for calves to go under into a separate holding pen, can be an easy add-on to any facility.
See how one person can sort pairs without additional labor or stress. http://bit.ly/SortingCow-CalfPairs.
3. Cattle Handling
First things first, please do your A.I. crew a favor and check everyone’s truck, trailer and even their saddlebags to ensure every hot shot was left at home! The WORST tool someone can bring to an A.I. project is a hot shot with fresh batteries.
Based on firsthand experience, standing behind cattle that have had a hot shot used on them in the alley makes for an unsafe work environment. Instead, use tools such as flag whips, sorting sticks or fiberglass poles. These items induce less stress on cattle than hot shots, and when the cattle aren’t stressed neither is the crew. Everyone wins!
It doesn’t take much to make your A.I. project a success. A little stockmanship goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to talk to your crew beforehand about what is expected, and never miss an opportunity to help correct what someone is doing in order to make things run smoother. Handling cattle is a continual learning process, and every situation is unique. Sometimes you have to be creative and think outside of the box. If you have any questions or would like assistance on your next A.I. project, contact GENEX at 888.333.1783.
Have you ever wondered what a large artificial insemination (A.I.) breeding project is like? The logistics and planning required can seem overwhelming and is often the reason beef cattle producers choose not to A.I. However, if the logistics can be solved - and they most always can - the advantages of A.I. can help improve your bottom line. Think more calves born earlier in the breeding season, the ability to use proven genetics and value-added replacement females.
Follow along on this recent breeding project and you will understand why GENEX is known for offering the industry’s best chute-side service!
Sarah Thorson, GENEX Beef Education & Marketing Manager, makes her way down to the hotel lobby where Justin Hergenreder, GENEX Beef Large Herd Development Manager, is anxiously waiting to get on the road. Justin is the logistics guy. If you are concerned about the facilities, time or labor involved in a breeding project, Justin is the person to talk to. While Sarah grabs a cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat, Justin briefs her on the day’s events. There are about 550 total head of cows to breed at two different locations. Talk about logistics! As always, Justin has a plan and is confident the day will go smoothly.
After a quick trip to the local doughnut shop to get a treat for the cowboy crew, Justin and Sarah arrive at the ranch. The ranch’s cowboy crew has already been hard at work. They have gathered the first group of cows and are just finishing sorting the calves off. Troy Carruthers and Matt Dolezal, GENEX Independent Contractors, have arrived as well, and the GENEX team gets to work setting up the double-stall breeding barn, filling thaw units with water and plugging in the A.I. gun warmers. The portable breeding barn makes it possible to breed cows almost anywhere. If you have some kind of corral and alley (portable, temporary or permanent), the breeding barn can be backed up to it and, when things are moving smoothly, 80 females can easily be bred per hour.
A portable breeding barn makes it possible to breed cows almost anywhere. The breeding barn can be backed up to a portable, temporary or permanent corral and alley for efficient and stress-free breeding.
The first cows start rolling through the chute right on schedule. There are about 280 cows to be bred at the first location. The GENEX team quickly falls into place. Justin, Troy and Matt take turns A.I.ing in a three-man rotation, while Sarah starts off the morning thawing semen.
The cows are being bred with semen from 1AN01300 INVESTMENT. The ranch feeds their own calves, so INVESTMENT was a great choice as his progeny are known to feed well. That, however, isn’t the only reason they chose him. INVESTMENT also has a 103 PregCheck™ ranking. The PregCheck™ fertility ranking system, proprietary to GENEX, is the first of its kind in the beef industry and evaluates an individual sire’s frozen semen conception rate. While everyone knows some A.I. sires get more cows pregnant than others, in the past it was difficult to measure a bull’s conception ability. With PregCheck™ rankings it’s easy! At a 103 ranking, you can expect INVESTMENT to achieve about three more pregnancies per 100 breedings than his contemporaries. On the 550 cows being bred today, that’s 16 extra A.I. calves!
The cowboy crew loads up their horses and heads five miles down the road to the second group of cows while the GENEX team finishes the first group, cleans up the breeding barn, hooks it to Justin’s pick-up and heads out. At the next location it’s a tight squeeze for the breeding barn, but Justin gets it backed up and the team works to put everything back where it belongs while the cowboys finish sorting.
After a quick breeding barn picnic consisting of Little Debbie® Honey Buns and Double Stuf OREO cookies (no one said a breeding project would be good for your diet), the GENEX team is back at work. This time Matt takes a turn thawing semen, and Sarah jumps into the breeding rotation.
Although Sarah’s been breeding cows for almost 20 years, her job as the Beef Marketing and Education Manager keeps her at a desk most days, so she loves an opportunity to be out at a breeding project. She always learns something and is amazed at how efficiently the team can manage a project of this magnitude. Everyone has a role to play. As indicated, Justin is the logistics guy. He takes his job very seriously. While he is always up for a joke in the breeding barn, he also sets the tone and keeps things moving. He is also the cleanest A.I. technician ever; don’t you dare run into him with a poopy glove on! Matt is an Angus genetics and pedigree guru. He knows what it takes to make a good one. Troy is the energizer bunny of the breeding barn. He never seems to get tired. Everyone else is always willing to take a turn thawing semen so they can stand in one place for a while. Not Troy. He wants to be where the action is.
Chute-side service breeding projects are a team effort. You get the cattle to the alleyway, and GENEX takes care of the breeding!
A quick look out the back window of the breeding barn shows the corral behind the alley is nearly empty! The last few cows flow smoothly through the barn, and the job is done! Everything is packed up and the breeding barn is hooked to Troy’s pick-up, so he can drop it off for tomorrow’s breeding project. There are another 300 head to breed tomorrow morning! It’s been an awesome day. Things couldn’t have gone smoother, but now it’s time for a cheeseburger, fries and a hot shower!
This is just one example of a recent GENEX breeding project. Nearly every day of the spring breeding season, 17 full-time employees and 180 independent contractors are working on breeding projects of all sizes throughout the U.S. Don’t let logistics be the thing that keeps you from using A.I. to add value to your breeding program. The GENEX team has the experience to help you make a plan that will achieve your goals. Whether looking to add value to replacement females, have more calves born earlier in the breeding season or benefit from use of proven genetics, GENEX will be with you every step of the way!
A GENEX Beef Facebook post asked beef producers for tips in planning your next timed artificial insemination (A.I.) project. Here is a sampling of the knowledge shared by seasoned A.I. veterans, grouped into seven categories.
"Timing is cricual! We make sure our shots are done exactly on time and likewise for insemination." - Emily Smith Castine
"Luck favors the prepared." - Kate Meyer
"As cool of weather as you can get. Early morning breeding, and then let them relax." - Ryan Stoecklein
"Research your bull choices and use those that you know have good conception or PregCheck™ rankings. Is it the easiest way to boost conception." - Justine Ferguson
"A good team of people to work with! Communications is key for everything to go smoothly." - Carrie Lynch
"Good body condition and good mineral program." - James Mullens
"Handle cattle and semen carefully!" - Jeff Meyer
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