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Switching from Bull to AI?

  • 11-04-2022 10:53pm
    Registered Users Posts: 7,103 ✭✭✭ funkey_monkey

    Currently running a bull with the sucklers, but considering moving over to fully AI maybe for next season for a few reasons:

    • Access to better genetics
    • Can run an extra cow in place of the bull
    • No bull to manage over winter
    • Can split herd across number paddocks

    We have done some small amount of AI, and that has been successful - all went into calf on first attempt. However, we would be using PRID/CIDR as well and this increases the costs. Only a small number of cows ~10. Don't want to AI when they come into heat naturally as we work off farm and might miss it or a neighbouring bull might make a visit.

    Drawback would seem to be if they fail to go in calf you would either have to sell or carry an empty cow or re-serve and end up with a protracted calving period. Seems like around 40 days is needed to then PD the cow and at that stage you might be better to send her down the road. A bull running with the herd should avoid this.

    Add to this that the AI tech would be doing the work as we done have the training to do it ourselves - nor a flask for the straws.

    What's folks opinions on this? How do folk who are fully AI manage? Are you better off with a decent bull if you can run one?


  • Registered Users Posts: 740 ✭✭✭ dohc turbo2

    If u around and able to monitor and watch worth it,for the variety of bulls, I'm working off farm, so I bought the best bull I could afford, tbh I wouldn b worried about being fully stocked under current conditions everything so expensive, u also have the safety issue of no bull around

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,433 ✭✭✭ Hard Knocks

    We’re 100% AI, while it does have its advantages, heat detection is massive (these are checked 7-8 times daily and still some can be missed) inseminating too early or too late can result in a miss too, then you’re waiting on 3 weeks to try again pushing out the calving interval. With a bull once she’s in heat she’s incalf

  • Registered Users Posts: 533 ✭✭✭ ABitofsense

    100% AI here too. As above key is detection. I started using estrotect patches and find them really good especially when I'm only checking them in the morning & evening after work, father once during the day. Very easy to pick them up then with the patches.

    Another thing with AI is getting them in. As my AI man comes around 11, my father does this during the week on his own so a bucket of nuts goes a long way. Cows are trained to a call now so will come in themselves once gates are opened. My stock is very quiet so very easily separate out what's needed.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,103 ✭✭✭ funkey_monkey

    Plan was to CIDR them and AI all 10 on one day. Expectation would be that there although there would be a tight calving period, there would be enough variation in the gestation length - especially if a mix of bulls were used - to ensure not all calved down at same time. Patches were something I had thought about, although we'd have trouble reacting to them due to work. Would probably have to re-CIDR to ensure we were on farm when AI main was coming - don't think they would want to put them up crush into headgate themselves - even though they are docile.

    Question - if you were planning to stay within the same bull breed would that make this approach much less attractive/sensible?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 914 ✭✭✭ mr.stonewall

    I'd be the opposite, with the way the new BDGP is going, you will have to ai to breed high index stock. The only way to do it is to have an element of AI going into your good stock.

    I have used cidrs in about 70% of the breeding stock over the past 3 years on 30 cows/heifers. Makes it very compact calving. Pick what's to ai and follow the protocol and pretty successful. Last year had 3 repeats at approx 42 days. I'm putting it down to the really warm spell in July.

    Still have a bull, and he will run with what ever has not got a straw.

    Picking out repeats, I use tailpaint and put in 2 strong yearlings who have been squeezed. They will run with the cows and heifers that have been AI'd. Will put them in at about day 12-14 after first serve and stay put for about 2 weeks. Then pull them out and join the AI'd stock back with the few cows that were with the bull. It means splitting the Suckler herd in 2 for a little over a month. What it does is it keeps a very compact breeding, you can pick the Ai bull to suit your cow. Currently only calving now and hitting the peek of cidrs calves. Have 7 on the ground in the past 48 hrs and 2 more tonight. Calving started this day last week and just over half the herd is calved. While it is a cost, it's as easy to watch 5 cows to calve as one. Being part time, means working things to suit you. Cows are in a bare paddock beside the house that has to get a few drains in the summer, it's skint and they are getting a bit hay of a roadway twice a day. Can't beat outdoor calving with Sucklers

    Just on minding the bull for the remainder of the year. I keep one cow to calve in Nov/Dec. She is company for the bull, somewhere for him to go in the spring and out of the shed, just handy to keep him settled. He's in the place 7 years. His only cost is grass and a short winter feed as he gets out with his lady in late jan/ early fe

    There is a place for both Ai and a bull, with suckler herds, it's an insurance policy having both work together. Breeding is wrapped up in less than 60 days

    Getting you cow in calf and getting a live calf out of the Suckler cow has to be the most important foundation to any Suckler herd.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,931 ✭✭✭ Dunedin

    its that old chestnut again - the answer can lie in your own circumstances at home. I’ve done both so I’ll give you my tuppence.

    unless you have a good set up to get cows back in to the yard, stress free (on man and beast) AI is not a runner. If you have, then it’s an option. Secondly, you need to be able to see the cows early morning/late evening and essentially the more often the better after that. Obviously the more you see them the more you’ll see on. I think you mentioned you have your father to do this and he also gets them in with a few nuts.

    given what you’ve said, then AI is definitely something you could try for a year or two. But don’t be kidding yourselves that you’ll get the same number of cows in calf bia AI as a bull as you won’t. Not saying that the bull is 100% as there will be issues with the odd cow too but on average, the bull will score more for you.

    you will pick up the finest of 5 star limo bulls for €2- 2,500 so don’t underestimate the ability of a stock bull to bring good stock. Tendency with a lot of farmers using AI is to still use an easy calving bull and that brings small calves which will often not be as good as a stock bull might bring.

    Having done both, I wouldn’t go back to AI for all the tea in china.

    interested in your conception rates on the cidrs. So if you did 70% of 30 cows, how many were you landing out of the 20 cows?

    I used to sell in calf heifers so would use the cidrs on the 5 or 6 maiden heifers and over a 5 year average, I’d only ever get 60% strike. Was considering it this year on a few cows and after talking with the vet, he said I’d do well to get 50% on the cows (varied from 2nd to 7th calvers)

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,872 ✭✭✭ patsy_mccabe

    If done both too. I was getting around maybe 385 calving interval with AI. It took me years to get right. The odd cow would come bulling after I thought she was in calf and I would AI her again. I know, you'll say this was a mistake but culling a good cow is every suckler farmers dilemma, especially if you're building up a herd. I found as I kept heifers from fertility proven cows and bulls, that this problem went away. After a few years I got it down to around 365 days.

    I bought a pedigree heifer then and kept a bull from her. Ran him for one or 2 years then and my calving interval came down by a month. No kidding. I had some cows bulling before the calf was dehorned. I am all pedigree now and ran a teaser bull these last few years. He was great but tended to only chase a cow for a short while as he got older and I couldn't keep a chinball on him. He found ingenious ways to pull it off.

    I'm all over the place calving now, which I don't mind to be honest. I tend to let heifers grow on till they are a good size to AI. I'd rather use a bull that suits them rather than using a very easy calving bull that doesn't.

    " But I send her my love with a bang on the ear."

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,103 ✭✭✭ funkey_monkey

    Good to get replies in.

    There is a change of circumstances on the farm and we are just mulling over options for the medium/long term. Yes, we could keep the bull - I'll be getting him genomically tested and freshening up the cows to see if we can improve the end product.

    All land has access to handling facilities and docile cattle that can be brought in by a single person. In regards to fertility issues the water with cattle gets Flowmag Fertility + Trace elements which hopefully should help them holding. We haven't done many CIDR, but so far all have held on first attempt. Although I'm aware that with increased use this will drop off.

    The reason we would have to CIDR would be because we don't have time to check x2 daily. So CIDR would give a definitive time for AI which we can schedule with AI.

    Carrying on with a bull is still the most likely option, although as we have small fields a bull, 10 cows and their calves can be hard on the ground.

  • Registered Users Posts: 914 ✭✭✭ mr.stonewall

    21 went for Ftai last year. 14 held to first serve, 3 held to second serve and 3 to the bull with the third serve. The last 3 we the ones that came bulling after 42 days. Last year had the poorest results. Year before had a calving spread of 37 days from start to finish of calving. This year will be about 60 days

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