Bull & Breeding Costs ?

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Stocker Steve

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Bull costs are up like many things. It appears that a better bull is U$S 7,000 plus.

I ran some cost per calf numbers on using AI and then an average clean up bull. It appears an expensive bull is lower cost per calf - - as long as you had enough cows?
 

M.Magis

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Must vary by region, they’re no where near that here. I went to an Angus sale last weekend and the top bull sold for $4200. The rest of the better bulls sold between $2500 and $3500. Someone just wanting some registered yearlings bulls to cover a bunch of cows could have filled the trailer with <$2000 bulls.
They may not be considered “better” bulls, I’m not sure. But they look decent and seem to draw a good crowd.
 

Dsth

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I would be interested in info on what numbers you used to determine cost of both methods. most info that I have read states 1 bull for 20 cows. maybe those numbers are not accurate. AI cost also depends on if you hire a tech to breed for you or you breed yourself. natural heat breeding or sync a group which adds cost also. Are you also adding feeding cost for the bull for a year. I only have 28 cows so I could get by with one bull probably for around $2000. I keep an eye out for semen sales from my AI supplier and get good bulls for $15 - $20/straw. If I have a bad conception rate and use 35 straws, my cost is around $700. I do sync my cows so add $20/cow. I do my own breeding so no extra cost there. $75/year for liquid nitrogen in my semen tank which I think is much cheaper than feeding a bull for a year. At least in my situation, AI seems to be much more cost efficient. AI breeding you would also need to add $ for your time to heat check and working cattle. If both ways would be equal dollar ways, I still like being able to breed a cow to whichever bull I think makes the most improvement for that cow. Bull breeding seems to be much more popular with beef herds here but dairy herds here are probably over 90% AI which is how I got started AIing. will be interesting to see how other members reply.
 

Josher

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I did some quick figuring AI vs traditional. AI is just a tad more expensive on getting cows bred but I’ve found a more upside in the replacements u get from AI. Which is the real reason why I started.
 

Dave

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When I was doing the bred heifer deal I synced and AI all of them. That cost $50 a head. The CIDR was $10, the drugs $10, semen $20, and the tech was $10. Plus some here figure their time. Well that was 3 times down the chute for 60 head. Two of those times it was me by myself to insert the CIDR's and pull them..
For cows I had a good source of bulls for about $2000. I would breed two seasons and ship them. Only fed for one winter and got a good portion of my money back when the bull went to town. 25 cows per bull for 2 years so 50 breedings. $393.75 for winter feed and pasture. $2000 + 393.75 = $2,393.75 Minus the $1,200 salvage for the bull. Cost $1,193.75 for 50 breedings or $23.87 per cow.
 

Rydero

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I did some quick figuring AI vs traditional. AI is just a tad more expensive on getting cows bred but I’ve found a more upside in the replacements u get from AI. Which is the real reason why I started.

I came to the same conclusion on the costs when I ran the #'s a couple years ago, but running them through when they could be eating grass with the bulls doing the work made it a completely unattractive option to AI for us.

I have a kind of guiding principle I use for farm decisions - If I have the option between doing something and doing nothing for a negligible or the same outcome in the end - do nothing.

If you get the value from the replacement heifers in your case you're getting a different result.
 

Josher

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At first I was a little surprised i wasn’t saving more by AI but it’s the end product I’m after. I’m looking for replacements for my cow herd, heifers to sell as breds, keeping our own bulls for bred heifer program and for cleanup bulls. Between those things is where it really pays for me. One thing I’ve wondered if u were to make it more profitable to AI is if u used a terminal bull to get growth calves and get sexed male semen to sell mostly steers. Would that turn the tides for some of u?
 

Rydero

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At first I was a little surprised i wasn’t saving more by AI but it’s the end product I’m after. I’m looking for replacements for my cow herd, heifers to sell as breds, keeping our own bulls for bred heifer program and for cleanup bulls. Between those things is where it really pays for me. One thing I’ve wondered if u were to make it more profitable to AI is if u used a terminal bull to get growth calves and get sexed male semen to sell mostly steers. Would that turn the tides for some of u?
Interesting question...I don't feel like my calves are genetically limited for growth by the sires I use - they're all at about +50lbs weaning weight for Charolais (that's like +100 for an Angus) with good Phenotype and individual growth. There's probably more improvements I can do with managing grazing, also I try to run a pretty cost controlled feeding program so that could take a little out of the calves early on too. Overall I'm sceptical I'd see a discernable difference in weaning weight. Maybe a decrease - multiple days working cattle and sorting the calves off to do the AI, having to manage grazing in a sub optimal way to keep them closer to facilities, etc. so I doubt I'd see a financial benefit there.

Having more steers is intriguing - the spread has been pretty wide the last couple years. A little mental math says it's probably not enough difference to warrant the extra work. I'm up over half the "extra" income without really trying. Before I start upgrading my chute cause I'm using it 3x a year instead of one and so on.
 

simme

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If you are comparing dollars, be realistic about the labor costs. AI breeding takes time for heat checking at least twice a day. You can decide if your time is worth anything or is free. I suspect that your time is worth quite a bit. To me, it is not about direct costs of getting the cows settled. AI breeding allows many choices of bull and breed - generally allows for higher quality genetics. If your cows are not very uniform, AI breeding can allow you to individually select bull traits for each cow - frame, milk, growth, carcass, birth weight, calving ease, etc. When you pick a natural service bull, you are probably picking for the average of your cows and all in the pasture get bred to that bull. Depending on your bull picking ability, AI should be giving a choice of a higher quality bull and should result in better calves. But, AI takes more time and labor.
 
OP
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Stocker Steve

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Labor and replacement quality are key items for me. My current compromise for this phase of the cattle cycle is:

- AI heifers to a proven cow maker.
- Retain a couple top bull calves for use on the cow herd next year.
- Repeat.
- Then go terminal.
 

Josher

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What do u figure Labour is for AI. Seems to be biggest downside. I figured in 20 bucks a head. Feeding bulls and fixing fence is a bit of cost and Labour there too.
 

Buck Randall

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If you are comparing dollars, be realistic about the labor costs. AI breeding takes time for heat checking at least twice a day. You can decide if your time is worth anything or is free. I suspect that your time is worth quite a bit. To me, it is not about direct costs of getting the cows settled. AI breeding allows many choices of bull and breed - generally allows for higher quality genetics. If your cows are not very uniform, AI breeding can allow you to individually select bull traits for each cow - frame, milk, growth, carcass, birth weight, calving ease, etc. When you pick a natural service bull, you are probably picking for the average of your cows and all in the pasture get bred to that bull. Depending on your bull picking ability, AI should be giving a choice of a higher quality bull and should result in better calves. But, AI takes more time and labor.
There's definitely more labor involved in AI, but daily heat detection isn't really a necessary component of a successful AI program. Synchronize the cows. Monitor for heats for a couple days, then breed the remainder timed AI. Ignore the cows for a while. 25 days after breeding, give them all a GnRH shot. Ultrasound on day 32. Open cows get prostaglandin and heat detection/timed AI. Repeat as necessary.

If you hit 60% conception at each round of breeding, you'll have 94% of the herd pregnant with a 64 day breeding season. Not bad. Not necessarily a labor saver, per se, but it concentrates the labor onto scheduled days instead of having to watch cows twice a a day for months and sort individual cows off to breed.
 

bigbluegrass

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As mentioned by the OP, the number of cows is the key along with a bull that will last for more than a few breeding seasons. I have a small herd. I do 100% AI without a cleanup bull. My cost to AI is between $65-$80 per calf.

If I were to use a $7,000 bull, figuring a 3 year service life, 100% pregnancy rate, $1700 salvage value, $200 per year feed cost, $100 in repairs and $180 in opportunity costs - that bull would need to service 30 cows a year to get to $75 per calf. I don't have 30 cows, but I can see how a $7,000 bull could pencil out if I did.
 

Josher

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As mentioned by the OP, the number of cows is the key along with a bull that will last for more than a few breeding seasons. I have a small herd. I do 100% AI without a cleanup bull. My cost to AI is between $65-$80 per calf.
If I were to use a $7,000 bull, figuring a 3 year service life, 100% pregnancy rate, $1700 salvage value, $200 per year feed cost, $100 in repairs and $180 in opportunity costs - that bull would need to service 30 cows a year to get to $75 per calf. I don't have 30 cows, but I can see how a $7,000 bull could pencil out if I did
I’m not sure about your feed situation but I’d say that number could be a lot higher. Up in Canada winter feeding adds up to a lot more but make sure to add in a grazing rate as well.
 

bigbluegrass

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I’m not sure about your feed situation but I’d say that number could be a lot higher. Up in Canada winter feeding adds up to a lot more but make sure to add in a grazing rate as well.
Absolutely, the feed costs are probably higher, especially for a bull. Everyone needs to use their own numbers, which is why I put down what I used.
 

Rydero

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As mentioned by the OP, the number of cows is the key along with a bull that will last for more than a few breeding seasons. I have a small herd. I do 100% AI without a cleanup bull. My cost to AI is between $65-$80 per calf.

I’m not sure about your feed situation but I’d say that number could be a lot higher. Up in Canada winter feeding adds up to a lot more but make sure to add in a grazing rate as well.

You're right feed costs will be higher but overall costs are $480/yr which is probably pretty close. $100 for repairs and $180 for opportunity costs are high imo. It's probably a fair enough number for figuring.

More thought I put into it the more I see it working for a small herd and not so much for a large herd unless you're highly specialized ie. purebred breeders and can recoup additional costs/labor. Heat detection 2x a day then having to pull one cow out of 100 in a pasture that supports 100 pairs isn't something I can see myself doing anytime soon. On the other hand you can synchronize as @Buck Randal suggests but then you're working 100 pairs (needing additional help to do so) multiple times and probably having more cows calving later than you would with bulls. Selecting certain AI bulls for certain cows sounds good too but quickly becomes a big task in larger numbers.

All that said it hinges almost entirely
on how much you value the perceived superiority of the replacements you generate. Another area I think in most cases where there's likely a small herd bias. I think it'd be easier to buy my friend who calves 1000's best heifer than a guy who calves 30.
 

Silver

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I know everyone's situation is different, but where I am at I believe I can get walking bulls through private sale that are every bit as good as what could be bought in a glass straw.
Much like the "more expensive bull is always better" line of thought there seems to be a misconception that semen in a straw is automatically better than a walking bull. And that may well be the case in many places, but not everywhere.
 

Rydero

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I know everyone's situation is different, but where I am at I believe I can get walking bulls through private sale that are every bit as good as what could be bought in a glass straw.
Much like the "more expensive bull is always better" line of thought there seems to be a misconception that semen in a straw is automatically better than a walking bull. And that may well be the case in many places, but not everywhere.
That's the other thing. Is the AI bull actually better? Probably not adapted to your environment and production model depending where you are and how you operate.
 

Hpacres440p

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As mentioned by the OP, the number of cows is the key along with a bull that will last for more than a few breeding seasons. I have a small herd. I do 100% AI without a cleanup bull. My cost to AI is between $65-$80 per calf.

If I were to use a $7,000 bull, figuring a 3 year service life, 100% pregnancy rate, $1700 salvage value, $200 per year feed cost, $100 in repairs and $180 in opportunity costs - that bull would need to service 30 cows a year to get to $75 per calf. I don't have 30 cows, but I can see how a $7,000 bull could pencil out if I did.
Ditto. Would love to keep a current calf to use in the future as a bull, but he’s 1/2 brother or son of the cows in my herd. He’ll sell for far more in boxes than on the hoof, with fewer headaches from a bored bull if I go ahead and steer him.
 

simme

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I know everyone's situation is different, but where I am at I believe I can get walking bulls through private sale that are every bit as good as what could be bought in a glass straw.
Much like the "more expensive bull is always better" line of thought there seems to be a misconception that semen in a straw is automatically better than a walking bull. And that may well be the case in many places, but not everywhere.
Good points. Many AI bulls are young and unproven - same as purchased walking bulls. Selected on the basis of breeder reputation, cow family, individual performance up to 12-18 months, visual appraisal - everything that can be evaluated. Really the same criteria whether you are selecting a natural service bull or a bull for AI use. Some of those young AI bulls and some of those walking bulls will not turn out as hoped. Maybe duds. I think older AI bulls that have sired hundreds or thousands of calves might have more certainly in their selection. That debate happens in the AI bull world - use a new "bull of the month" or an old proven AI bull. I tend to go with the older more proven bulls. Risk either way for selecting a new bull. But, I think a proven bull whether natural service or AI is less risk.
 

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