All AI for small herd?

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Post Oak

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I have reduced my herd down to 5 cows(at my current place) since I sold my farm that was about an hour away and most of the cows that were there. I was curious of y’all think that I could breed these cows with synchronized AI or would just have to borrow a bull or still use a cleanup bull.
 

Ky hills

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It can be done, especially if you can do the AI work yourself or can get an AI tech to work with you to get it done at the right times. I gave up on AI because the techs like to do TAI and it doesn’t seem get a very good percentage for us as the timing is very important.
 

Poorman

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I stared with 5 cows 4 years ago and always wanted to get into AI bc I though it would be cheaper then running a bull and with a dairy background it was what I was used too. Now that I have grown my herd to 18 commercial black cows I don’t see the benefit it AI for terminal production. So it will depend on what your end goal is. I don’t show or keep heifers, so the best I found is feeding larger producers bulls for them. Late Jan to late feb when ever they are done breeding their fall calvers till April, They let me use their registered bulls on my small herd so they don’t have to feed them for the winter. The only down side is I am still having calves till about the first week of Jan.
 

Redgully

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I only run 7 cows now as a hobby. I do my own a.i. and dont have a bull. I agree with Ky Hills, i nearly gave up when we were doing tia as there would always be 1,2,3 or 4 that wouldn't take and was a pain. Now i do my own i can go on natural heats. But i will sometimes still give a shot of lutylise to bring one into heat and find that works really well too. Problems i encounter is when I'm really busy heat checking gets hard to pinpoint exact timing. Also my technique suffers from lack of practice and sometimes i can't get all the way through cervix, especially the deep ones who hang over the edge of pelvic bone. Something else i have recently encountered is if they have a difficult birth and are a bit 'dirty' inside can be really hard to re breed with a.i. In situations like this a bull would be super handy. But having said that i am having really good success and feel i will only get better. I have been playing arkund with embryos last two years so has knocked my a.i. programs out of kilter a bit. Lucky for me it is a hobby so no stress if they calve out of sinc.
 

gizmom

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Our herdsman runs his own personal herd. He hasn't had a bull on his place in 20 years or so. All AI if they don't breed Ai they are sent down the road. I think he breeds 20 or better every year. So I can say with first hand knowledge it is possible. You have to be willing to ship the ones that don't settle AI.
 
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Post Oak

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Thanks for all the replies and advice. I will probably be stuck around 5 or 6 cows until(or if) I can buy or lease something nearby. I would love to AI myself on observed heats, it’s just with my paying job, I don’t have the time.
 

Richnm

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I am doIng 100% Ai , but I only have 15 registered cows. I am seriously considering a clean up bull. It’s a lot of time. And depending on someone to AI for you makes it harder.
 

bigbluegrass

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I have been doing 100% AI with no bull for about 10 years now. I only breed 5-10 cows a year. I breed on natural heats. I use estrotec patches to help with heat checks. If you don't have time to heat check twice a day, you probably won't be able to breed on natural heats. I don't have any experience with TAI, so can't say if it would work as well without a clean-up bull.
 

Cdcollett

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This depends on your time available. I’d never do it because I just can’t catch them all. I breed on natural heats when I see them but after that I utilize TAI & I feel I get good results. My clean up bulls on the other hand get dam near perfect results after that so I like that combo. That’s with me doing my own. Using a tech would eliminate step one because they won’t be there when you need them. You don’t have enough cows to justify owning a Bull. You could borrow one but you need to know if he comes from a safe program since you could be sharing more than the Bull.
 

lithuanian farmer

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Have used 100% AI in the past, then moved to 100% herd bull and now are at ~50%AI for cows and 100%AI heifers. All natural heats, there will be 56 females calving this season in total. Have used TAI two years ago on a couple animals. Really great thing for those cows, which have silent heats or are late to come into heat after calving and really liked it for heifers, because all were bred on the first round, so just some extra work for a couple days and we were able to be at easy that heifers are bred, as they are abit harder to deal with for AI.
 

Dsth

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I have a small herd of 25 - 30 cows and have been 100% AI for a long time. AIed my dairy herd for years and got out of milking in 1998. I tried borrowing my neighbors bull one year but he and the other neighbors bull got into it and tore out an almost new stretch of fence, so that was the last time I had a bull on the farm. I synchronize my cows in groups and use heat detection aids to find cows that did not settle. I also work a full time job off the farm so heat detection can be tricky. I can't justify spending money on a bull that will improve my herd and feeding him all year long. Renting a bull only introduces someone else's health problems since I decided to keep a closed herd several years ago. I can see where AI would be a problem if you run your herd on a lot of acres and have a breeding season while cows are out on pasture. Not knowing all the factors for your operation, it is hard to give advise; but just passing on what works for me. Good luck and hope you find a system that works well for you.
 

SPH

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For a a handful of cows all AI should be fine just need to be dilligent with heat detection and breed near the end of the heat cycle to get the best conception rate and keep your calving season from getting too stretched out.

We reduced our herd from around 20+ females to about 12 a couple years ago and our AI program is 1 timed heat round for late Feb due date then out with the herd bull for cleanup. Not all will come in heat for AI but synching the majority of them up has worked well as if they don't stick to the AI service they almost always stick when they come in heat with the bull next time. Makes for a nice tight calving window and a nice mix of AI and natural sired calves. Had all but 1 calf within a month this spring and the last one was only a couple weeks later. That cow with last calf in early April is confirmed pregnant with a late Feb AI calf so pretty pleased with the system we have going that allows us to pull the bull earlier and not stretch out the calving season and the cows still can breed back up a cycle or 2 the next year. May 15th used to be our cutoff when we had 20+ but now early April is the latest we like to calf and no later than May 1 at wosrt since most of the cows are calved by end of March. Helps make our cull decisions easier too, if they cant breed back within a certain time frame we dont care to keep 1 to calve over a month after the rest of the herd has calved.
 

VaCowman

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Thanks for all the replies and advice. I will probably be stuck around 5 or 6 cows until(or if) I can buy or lease something nearby. I would love to AI myself on observed heats, it’s just with my paying job, I don’t have the time.
It can be done! I too have a "day job" and struggle to do my due diligence when heat detecting. For the last several years, I've just bred once a day, usually in evenings, on anything that has a red patch (estrotect). Yes, some are getting bred a little early/late, but I always give a shot of Cystorellin at breeding and I've gotten along just fine. Hitting over 90% on natural heats and the girls only get 30d to breed. By then, I'm sick and tired of spending so much time checking/breeding, and even those "favorites" get easier and easier to ship if they do come up open. It works for me, you'll just have to figure out how much you can stand and do what works for you. Good luck!
 

Josher

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My ai rep got us on a 10 day window. We used to go off of natural heats. But now we do 7 days on natural heat and then give the remaining ones a shot of estrumate and then whoever else is able to cycle will come in heat in next few days but we usually wait 5 more days. So 12 days total.
Also there are studies that say u can Ai once a day and conception rates will not change. Heat detection pads are a life saver. If you use heat detection pads, u could get by with only checking once a day preferably early morning and AI whatever cows that the stickers have been rubbed. Wouldn’t actually take that much work with this system. After u ai each cow u may still have to put another estrotect sticker on to be sure they don’t come in heat again. Or for clean up u could make a deal with a neighbor to run your cows with his till breeding season is over.
 

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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You can check with ABS or Genex or Select Sire to see if they have an AI tech that covers your area.
@Josher is right on. Breed for 5-7 days, PG the ones that did not come into heat, they should respond 2-5 days later. Estrotec tags are GREAT. They are a "tool", but sure can save you if you don't have the time to observe. I always look for secondary signs - swollen vulva, discharge, matted tail head. Of course, the cow has to already be cycling for a PG shot to activate her. She has to have a CL, the PG will make her sluff the CL and will force a natural heat. You can also use CIDR's. More expensive and I don't think they are as successful.
 

Son of Butch

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Thanks for all the replies and advice. I will probably be stuck around 5 or 6 cows until(or if) I can buy or lease something nearby. I would love to AI myself on observed heats, it’s just with my paying job, I don’t have the time.
Time is money. It is a finite valuable resource. Focus on your real job.

With only a handful of commercial cows as a hobby, do whatever is cheapest
and easiest for you and doesn't interfere with your livelihood.
 

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