100 % AI, no cleanup bull

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Bright Raven

Well-known member
Mar 10, 2017
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A User who has lurked on these boards sent me a PM this morning. The User has never made a post. They ask if I could give them advice on breeding 10 to 20 commercial cows 100 % AI. I thought I would share the information:

Short answer is yes. You can breed 10 to 20 cows AI without a cleanup bull, but that is predicated on the following:

1. You must have good AI skills. Or you have an excellent AI technician who can give you personal service in a prompt and conscientious manner. In my experience, you cannot find an AI technician who can give you the services you need on a time table to be successful in a 100 % AI program. If you are just starting to learn AI, then until you pick up the skill, you will need a bull. Perhaps you can lease a bull for 60 days.

2. 100 % AI takes a lot of your time! Especially if you breed on natural observed heats.

3. Heat detection is paramount. Start logging each cows estrus cycle about 3 months in advance of breeding. That way, when you see a couple cows involved in jumping, you know which one is in heat if she is due to come into heat.

4. Get a good breeding calendar and keep notes on heats on it.

5. For 100 % AI, your cow has to cooperate. She must be fertile. To help her, they have to be on good mineral and getting the necessary nutrition.

6. Learn a cow's anatomy and reproductive physiology.

7. Practice!

Everyone is not good at AI. My SS instructor says very few who take his class stick with it. And almost none try to go it without a cleanup bull. I would suggest that you take an AI course. Start building your herd and practice AI until you demonstrate that you can get at least a 70 % conception rate on first service.

Until then, have a technician come in and breed them using a TAI (timed AI) protocol.

You also must be motivated. You must have time.

Good luck to all.
Another point. You can help by vaccinating with a good fetal protection viral vaccine for IBR, BVD, and BRSV and the bacterium - Leptospira.

This is fairly new information - the viral vaccine for IBR can disrupt ovarian function so Give it about 6 weeks prebreeding.
kentuckyguy":1fbycjzh said:
Ron are you breeding everything on natural heat? Are you using patches?

I am fundamentally 100 % natural heat. I had one cow (Margo) that did not come into heat. She did this the fall before. Seems that when she has a calf, it suppresses her estrus. I used a 7 day protocol with CIDR and she stuck to Cowboy Cut.

I don't think I need chalk or estrotect patches. I know when my cows are in heat. Having said that, I either chalk them or patch them.
I’ve noticed when reading pretty much every AI post I can find on here that those who breed on natural heats tend to have a much higher conception rate.

I would much rather breed on natural heats but being gone 14 hours a day when I’m working pretty much will force me to used timed AI.
Bright Raven":6h0hlg30 said:
This is fairly new information - the viral vaccine for IBR can disrupt ovarian function so Give it 60 days prebreeding.

Ron, can you elaborate? The latest research and information I’ve seen still says 28 days prebreeding as the recommendation. Did I miss the boat?
Bovine breeder":1yawktpr said:
Bright Raven":1yawktpr said:
This is fairly new information - the viral vaccine for IBR can disrupt ovarian function so Give it 60 days prebreeding.

Ron, can you elaborate? The latest research and information I’ve seen still says 28 days prebreeding as the recommendation. Did I miss the boat?

You didn't miss the boat but might have forgot your life jacket. :hat: The Kentucky Cattleman Association has an article in Cow Country News. I will try to find it.

When a cow is vaccinated for IBR, the immune response disrupts ovarian function. Nothing chronic, but it can disrupt the estrus cycle. The article which was written by a UK animal scientist, says it is better to have that disruption out of the way before getting too close to breeding. The suggestion was 6 weeks in preference to 4 weeks as most vaccines recommend. More to come if I can find the reference.

Edited to add:

The author was Dr. Michelle Arnold. She recommends at least 4 weeks prior to breeding and preferably 6 weeks. This is especially true of cows and heifers not previously vaccinated for IBR. The immune response can influence the ovary and the CL.

BTW: my heifers start early on the FP vaccination pathway. Their first exposure is on day one - intranasal Enforce 3 which covers PI3, IBR and BRSV. Then at weaning they get their first Bovi-Shield Gold MLV FP 5. All my cows have a long history of MLV FP5 exposure. In my circumstances, it is probably not a big issue.
I'd set every cow that I was going to AI on a 7 day protocol. Breed everything TAI, and if you see any in heat a day early or late breed them twice. Then in 20 days look for the one's you missed and breed them again. Setting the cows up for TAI helps on timing. The more you practice the easier and faster it gets, not necessarily the better you get.
We have been using A.I. on our cows on and off for the last 30 years. Timed A.I. is an excellent tool and if you follow the protocols it can work quite well. I prefer breeding on natural heats as it is easier on the cow and i have a much better strike rate. But it is very time orientated. I find cows can vary from the whole valley knowing she is on heat to not even other cows knowing. Also they don't always stay a consistent number of days between heats. If you are to breed on natural heats learning the skill is a must. To me, placement of the semen is over rated. More important is handling of the semen and timing of the insemination. I did 7 a couple of months back and only one returned. She has been very fertile with bulls but struggled with A.I. so for her next insemination i waited 8 hours after she finished standing heat and got her stuck. I haven't had a bull now for five years. When i did the course there was nine of us. Some guys just could not pick it up. I found it very easy. Only two of us from the course still do it. I am not known as golden arm but i am very happy with my results. I think the key to success is record keeping and not over thinking it and my biggest thought is people stress way way too much on semen placement thinking it is the be all and end all of success.
One of the hazards of synchronising them is the orgy that occurs. You get some cows that do a lot of mounting and you can hear the air being sucked into the vagina. It can make the insemination very difficult with a vagina full of air. The guy I buy my semen through is in his 80's and was a very skilfull technician in his day, I mentioned this to him the other day when getting my tank filled and he told me one place he used to visit used to get a lot of them sucking a vagina full of air and the owner got a wet and dry vacuum cleaner and would suck the air out, he reckons it worked a treat.

I do my inseminations in spring and am in the middle of them now. Spring is a very variable time here, often being very tough which it is this year so I have to feed. I have to be very carefull what I feed, some hay is too good for them and they will scour and some will suck in a lot of air. I find barley straw is good for the, it has their manure just right.

With 10-20 cows I'd still want a cleanup bull just to keep the calving season fairly tight. We run around 20 females and will try to synch up about a dozen of them for timed AI for late February then turn them loose with the cleanup bull as if they don't stick to the AI service they still will have a March calf and will cycle early enough to try AI again the next year. Any more than 2 heat cycles with AI you are spreading out your calving season and you have a lot better chance of the bull settling a cow than you do making sure you serviced the female at the right time of her heat with AI.

Then comes the question about what a good cleanup bull is worth. I wouldn't recommend buying one at the local sale barn, he is probably there for a reason. Do your research and due diligence with bulls for sale with reputable breeders who have been in the business for awhile. You may pay a little more than you would like but knowing what kind of program that bull was raised in and the genetics and data behind him holds some value compared to the unknown that comes with buying sale barn bulls.
I have 100% AI here, mostly natural heats, except for our heifers. We shoot for a 6 day period before we leave on vacation.
I use natural heats on ones I know are due to cycle. I use Lutalyse for ones that will respond timely. And, I use CIDR's on ones that I do not have a heat or will not fit the other two ways. We bred 15 last year and got 13 of them stuck for the 6 day period.
Having said that, 1st, I prefer natural heats, 2nd Lutalyse, and last CIDR.
Going back through some old(ish) threads and figured I would resurrect this one. Probably because I am the user (or lurker) that messaged Bright Raven with this question and then he thought it would be helpful to start a thread and just answer it on the forum.

I never did get into AI but I think about doing it from time to time.
I have to take back my statement I made back in 2018. I now AI for 38 days, then turn a bull out for 30 days. Our sale in PA was during our breeding season (gone 5 days) and our vacation time was before the sale. So, we moved our vacation time to after the sale. Turn a bull out day before we leave and he gets to watch the cows while we are gone.
We borrow a bull from a friend who has purchased many females from me and he uses the same AI bulls as I do, so his cattle are similar pedigrees to mine. The bull we used for last 2 years was out of one of my cows. He gave us 3 calves out of the 40 Jan/Feb herd. One was born March 1 and is in our show string winning!!
He purchased a bull from me 2 years ago (bull calf we showed and won with) that we will be using this coming year.

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