by: Blair Fannin

College Station — The importance of a breeding soundness exam in herd bulls can prevent costly revenue losses, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist.

Stan Beyers, AgriLife Extension economist in Vernon, shared the data from a large New Mexico ranch recently during the 62nd Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course in College Station. In his evaluation of the past 25 years of income and expenses on the ranch, veterinary services and breeding per herd accounted for 3.1 percent of total expenses, or $27.88 per breeding female. But in 2003, disaster set in. Beyers said pregnancy rates in 2003 dropped 50 percent.

“The ranch wasn't doing any breeding exams and it hit them hard, very hard,” Beyers said. “The initial loss was $62,000 in calf sales. It also hurt their breakeven costs.”

Beyers said breakeven costs were calculated by taking the expenses divided by the total pounds of production. At the time pregnancy rates decreased, breakeven expenses increased from $1.19 per hundredweight to $1.75 per hundredweight.

The impact of the increase had significant repercussions later as the ranch looked to expand the herd.

“The board of directors purchased an additional 15,000 acres and wanted to stock it with replacement heifers,” Beyers said. “By missing out on the $62,000 in calf sales, needless to say, this set them back at least two years.”

Ultimately, Beyers said six bulls out of the 26-bull battery were sterile. A breeding soundness exam would have cost the ranch $1,560 versus losing $61,677 in calf sales.

“What this tells us is that it all begins with reproduction,” he said.

Bevers said cattle producers should view the expense of breeding soundness exams as purchasing an insurance policy.

“If she doesn't get bred, nothing else matters. How much are you willing to assume, how much insurance can you afford to purchase?”

After Beyers' presentation, he thanked the audience and told attendees he would be retiring after 27 years with AgriLife Extension at the end of August.

“It's been a pleasure to serve you all of these years and provide you with information to help your operations become more profitable,” he said.

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