Bull & Breeding Costs ?

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Josher

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I would agree that AI is not always better. U can go backwards pretty quick by picking the wrong bulls AI or not. Picking proven bulls tends to be the least risk.
 

Rydero

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I would agree that AI is not always better. U can go backwards pretty quick by picking the wrong bulls AI or not. Picking proven bulls tends to be the least risk.
Least risk in a terminal operation would be to rely on the breed of the bull to do the work rather than relying on the bull to be exceptional within his breed. Bull selection is more important for a one breed herd than a crossbreeding operation.
 

CVAR

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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?
I’ve used almost every synch program ever developed over the years. Now, I’ve gone back to trying to AI off natural heats, sometimes we’ll also give a shot of PG to groups we know are cycling already and others, especially heifers we use a full blown cidr protocol. For ET we always use cidr protocol. Depending on the situation, we never AI more than twice for same animal in a season (rare to AI twice at that) and then we kick a clean up bull out. Once calving time comes, AI sired bulls have the best chance as being sold as breeders, bulls sired by the clean up bulls have much less of a chance and are mostly turned in to steers before they really have a chance to develop. Also, one thing that might help save a few $$ for the ones counting every dolllar (which is my situation too, at least to a degree) we use cidrs twice before tossing them. When new cidrs go in, I tie one knot on the tail, then next year, I tie another knot, once I pull a cidr out that has two knots on the tail, it’s tossed. Care of the used cidr is important if you do this. I was at a notable ag university awhile back where they were pulling cidrs and saving them for a second use but the person that pulled them, through them in a 5gal bucket of water (and I’m assuming nolvasan) submerging them, then left them there. All the hormone leaks out when you do that so those would be no good after that.
 

Allenw

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Compare all costs to the costs of home raised bulls. If you do not have any home raised bull calves that are worth using it tells you that every cow you have is a cull.
My son and I discussed this last night that if your cattle are any good you should have a few bull calves every year that would make good bulls depending on total numbers.
 

Dsth

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several excellent points brought up in this thread. adding to my previous reply; AI works well for me for several reasons beyond the price difference. my herd is just a hobby so no intentions of selling seed stock or breeding bulls. my herd is about 49% BA and 49% RA with a few crossbreds. AI lets me breed red to red and black to black. crossbreed just to keep life interesting. I calf Dec. - Feb in Iowa because I have the facilities from the dairy still on the farm so cows all have inside calving facilities. breed March till last cow bred (hopefully before they are turned out to pasture late April to early May.) It is a pain trying to heat check and sort cows to breed once they are out on pasture, so would not AI if I had to do that every year. I started with sale barn cows that most buyers passed on because of various reasons and have built what I feel is a nice herd right now with the help of AI genetics. I feel breeding AI has gotten me here faster than if I would have used natural service bulls.
 

Josher

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I’ve used almost every synch program ever developed over the years. Now, I’ve gone back to trying to AI off natural heats, sometimes we’ll also give a shot of PG to groups we know are cycling already and others, especially heifers we use a full blown cidr protocol. For ET we always use cidr protocol. Depending on the situation, we never AI more than twice for same animal in a season (rare to AI twice at that) and then we kick a clean up bull out. Once calving time comes, AI sired bulls have the best chance as being sold as breeders, bulls sired by the clean up bulls have much less of a chance and are mostly turned in to steers before they really have a chance to develop. Also, one thing that might help save a few $$ for the ones counting every dolllar (which is my situation too, at least to a degree) we use cidrs twice before tossing them. When new cidrs go in, I tie one knot on the tail, then next year, I tie another knot, once I pull a cidr out that has two knots on the tail, it’s tossed. Care of the used cidr is important if you do this. I was at a notable ag university awhile back where they were pulling cidrs and saving them for a second use but the person that pulled them, through them in a 5gal bucket of water (and I’m assuming nolvasan) submerging them, then left them there. All the hormone leaks out when you do that so those would be no good after that.
We are AI off natural heats too but with a shot of estrumate on day 5 we tighten the AI to 12 days. It’s still Is a bit labour intensive but I think we are actually getting the cows to calve earlier than they would with sending them out to pasture. If on average u speed them up even 3 days. Times that by say 3 lbs a day. 9 lbs x $2= $18. Starts to Add value again to AI. But everyone does what works for them. Some people don’t have any time to spare or wouldn’t be getting enough value out of AI to justify it.
 

Son of Butch

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If on average u speed them up even 3 days. Times that by say 3 lbs a day. 9 lbs x $2= $18. Starts to Add value
I know you mean well, but the 9 lbs aren't free (unless done on air & eating rocks)

Reminds me of a casino friend bragging about winning $100 on a slot machine
while ignoring the $50 he spent to do it. He won $50 not 100.
 
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Josher

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I know you mean well, but the 9 lbs aren't free (unless done on air & eating rocks)

Reminds me of a casino friend bragging about winning $100 on a slot machine
while ignoring the $50 he spent to do it. He won $50 not 100.
Okay yes I realize it’s not free. My pasture grazing is .85/ pair per day. X 3 days equals $2.55. Cuts into the $18 a little but My 3 days sooner was just a wild guess. I think it’s on the moderate side. I doubt anyone would say that cows calving earlier in the season would be a disadvantage... more pounds, uniformity, sets them up better for next year, etc.
 

Banjo

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Compare all costs to the costs of home raised bulls. If you do not have any home raised bull calves that are worth using it tells you that every cow you have is a cull.
Like begets like.....We are conditioned to a lot of things from a very young age and one is that "progressive farmers" buy fat expensive bulls.
 

Cgirling1983

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I would agree that AI is not always better. U can go backwards pretty quick by picking the wrong bulls AI or not. Picking proven bulls tends to be the least risk.
AI can be a very useful tool but it can also be costly. Using ai on your cows from a sire that looks good in a catalogue as an ‘experiment’ can land you in a dumpster fire pretty quickly. I try not to use an AI sire off a farm whose cows I’ve not seen. I don’t care how he looks, I want to see the cows that developed him. I truly believe that you can not have a good bull without a good cow. So many people use these bulls with great looks and numbers and then they get these calves that underperform at home they’re confused as to why. Usually comes down to
Nutrition and their mothers. If you aren’t improving your cows, you’ll never be able to retain your own bull calves, they’ll never be good enough and you’ll never improve. Steers make a guy more money, but the value of your future is in your replacements, which are also the most costly thing to raise on the farm. So if you’re going to keep replacements they better be of higher quality than what you have now and if they’re not, you are never going to improve, regardless of which AI sires you breed them to. Geography plays a role also, heat stress and cold stress can’t be ignored, foot strength and range ability ... I liken it to soldiering. If you have a man that is structurally correct and in shape, you can give him a rifle and hand him a map and send him off to hump across the prairie for miles. If you have a man that has a bad foot, flat feet, tight hips, etc. He isn’t going to be as effective, productive, he’s going to struggle and break down. The biggest signs I see are when you go to roundup the bulls and they look like they’ve been to war, emaciated and broken? You’re not using the right bulls for your operation. Bulls that maintain their condition and come out at the end of the season looking ok? Those are the lines you need to retain. Lots of people catalogue shop for performance, but real world performance on the ground is the ultimate test, so by all means, use AI, but the farther you look from Home and the more performance you chase, the more chances a wreck will develop. I still think you’re best off finding breeders near you and doing a tour of their cows. Look for bad feet or long toes, look at body condition, look at their coat and their overall herd health, do they look happy and healthy? If they’re happy and healthy it means the bulls out of them are probably going to perform for you in your environment much the same as theirs. Then if you want to find the best bulls on their place and buy some semen off their top bulls? Good plan. Keep the replacements and improve your herd. Then once you have solid replacements and your cow herd is ideally adapted to your environment, start culling. Keep your bulls in for 45 days max, get rid of the opens. Start increasing your fertility and make that a priority. Then once you’ve got that down, start looking at feed efficiency and figure out which animals eat less and gain more. Eventually by the time your kids are old enough to take over, they will be taking over a herd that is exceptional and you’re setting them up for success. Ranching isn’t a business where you can just find the perfect recipe over night, it takes year and years of development, culling, management... people have to look at their needs and develop based on those needs. What is your goal? Would you buy a bull that looks like bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman if you have 80 sections of pasture ground you expect him to roam? Then why are you using an AI sire like him? Stayability is important and I don’t mean the EPD. EPD data is probably the last selection tool a person needs. So, to the point, use AI, but use it with a plan that helps you meet your goals. Look at your cows as individuals and evaluate what each one is lacking or could use, then find a sire you trust to help get her there. Every herdsman should be thinking five years ahead and constantly evaluating every breeding season. The less variables you have to change (feed, mineral, water) the more you can narrow problems down to genetics and breeding choices. If you start just throwing in random sires all over the place you’re going to have a hard time pinning down where your failures and your successes are coming from. So that’s my advice. Find people smarter than you and with better cows than you every year, and you will probably continue to improve.
 

Silver

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I know you mean well, but the 9 lbs aren't free (unless done on air & eating rocks)

Reminds me of a casino friend bragging about winning $100 on a slot machine
while ignoring the $50 he spent to do it. He won $50 not 100.
The cow was eating whether she had a calf or not. I would maintain that every day she is eating and not raising a calf is costing money with no return.
 

Lee VanRoss

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cy1983> You would have saved yourself a lot of time if you had just began at the last sentence and stopped at that point. LVR
 
OP
S

Stocker Steve

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We are AI off natural heats too but with a shot of estrumate on day 5 we tighten the AI to 12 days. It’s still Is a bit labour intensive but I think we are actually getting the cows to calve earlier than they would with sending them out to pasture. If on average u speed them up even 3 days. Times that by say 3 lbs a day. 9 lbs x $2= $18. Starts to Add value again to AI. But everyone does what works for them. Some people don’t have any time to spare or wouldn’t be getting enough value out of AI to justify it.
Me too for heifers.

Have gone from using several AI bulls pre year to match something to using one proven bull and retaining son(s) for cleanup or cows.

Buying a bull from our current proven sire is U$S 5,000 to 7,000. This cost actually pencils out if you have big enough single sire breeding groups x multiple years.
 
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Rydero

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Okay yes I realize it’s not free. My pasture grazing is .85/ pair per day. X 3 days equals $2.55. Cuts into the $18 a little but My 3 days sooner was just a wild guess. I think it’s on the moderate side. I doubt anyone would say that cows calving earlier in the season would be a disadvantage... more pounds, uniformity, sets them up better for next year, etc.
It's a valid point, if they calve a little earlier it's an advantage. You don't have to AI to do this though. If it's worth it you can give the shot before bull turnout. I've had to a couple times when bulls and cows mixed early. Both times it did seem to tighten the calving window. We're thinking of doing it this year to get a group of heifers mostly out of the way before the main herd starts.
 

Rydero

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AI can be a very useful tool but it can also be costly. Using ai on your cows from a sire that looks good in a catalogue as an ‘experiment’ can land you in a dumpster fire pretty quickly. I try not to use an AI sire off a farm whose cows I’ve not seen. I don’t care how he looks, I want to see the cows that developed him. I truly believe that you can not have a good bull without a good cow. So many people use these bulls with great looks and numbers and then they get these calves that underperform at home they’re confused as to why. Usually comes down to
Nutrition and their mothers. If you aren’t improving your cows, you’ll never be able to retain your own bull calves, they’ll never be good enough and you’ll never improve. Steers make a guy more money, but the value of your future is in your replacements, which are also the most costly thing to raise on the farm. So if you’re going to keep replacements they better be of higher quality than what you have now and if they’re not, you are never going to improve, regardless of which AI sires you breed them to. Geography plays a role also, heat stress and cold stress can’t be ignored, foot strength and range ability ... I liken it to soldiering. If you have a man that is structurally correct and in shape, you can give him a rifle and hand him a map and send him off to hump across the prairie for miles. If you have a man that has a bad foot, flat feet, tight hips, etc. He isn’t going to be as effective, productive, he’s going to struggle and break down. The biggest signs I see are when you go to roundup the bulls and they look like they’ve been to war, emaciated and broken? You’re not using the right bulls for your operation. Bulls that maintain their condition and come out at the end of the season looking ok? Those are the lines you need to retain. Lots of people catalogue shop for performance, but real world performance on the ground is the ultimate test, so by all means, use AI, but the farther you look from Home and the more performance you chase, the more chances a wreck will develop. I still think you’re best off finding breeders near you and doing a tour of their cows. Look for bad feet or long toes, look at body condition, look at their coat and their overall herd health, do they look happy and healthy? If they’re happy and healthy it means the bulls out of them are probably going to perform for you in your environment much the same as theirs. Then if you want to find the best bulls on their place and buy some semen off their top bulls? Good plan. Keep the replacements and improve your herd. Then once you have solid replacements and your cow herd is ideally adapted to your environment, start culling. Keep your bulls in for 45 days max, get rid of the opens. Start increasing your fertility and make that a priority. Then once you’ve got that down, start looking at feed efficiency and figure out which animals eat less and gain more. Eventually by the time your kids are old enough to take over, they will be taking over a herd that is exceptional and you’re setting them up for success. Ranching isn’t a business where you can just find the perfect recipe over night, it takes year and years of development, culling, management... people have to look at their needs and develop based on those needs. What is your goal? Would you buy a bull that looks like bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman if you have 80 sections of pasture ground you expect him to roam? Then why are you using an AI sire like him? Stayability is important and I don’t mean the EPD. EPD data is probably the last selection tool a person needs. So, to the point, use AI, but use it with a plan that helps you meet your goals. Look at your cows as individuals and evaluate what each one is lacking or could use, then find a sire you trust to help get her there. Every herdsman should be thinking five years ahead and constantly evaluating every breeding season. The less variables you have to change (feed, mineral, water) the more you can narrow problems down to genetics and breeding choices. If you start just throwing in random sires all over the place you’re going to have a hard time pinning down where your failures and your successes are coming from. So that’s my advice. Find people smarter than you and with better cows than you every year, and you will probably continue to improve.
It doesn't have to be so complicated. There's no reason for it to take until my kids take over (what a waste to build it for them and they decide to go another way). I can skip to the end, buy the cows/heifers and done. I've spent a fair amount of time at the stockyards watching cattle sell and I've yet to come across a group of calves or a herd of cattle that's so superior in any measurable way to what I can easily buy that it would be worth dedicating a llifetime to creating. What's the end goals for performance of a legacy herd like that?

Simply put what's the conception rate, weaning rate, feed efficiency, average weaning weight, average longevity etc. of the greatest herd ever assembled so I can measure where I am vs where I can reasonably expect to go?
 
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Brute 23

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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.
Ya I went thru the AI class here to try to wrap my head around the cost and what all was needed... it was very pricey compared to natural breeding. No way I could pencil it out for a calf going to auction.

The biggest killer was the conception percentage. Even the best of the best conception rates would put us out of business. You definitely have to have a goal like expanding on genetics or some thing of that nature.
 

Dsth

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Ya I went thru the AI class here to try to wrap my head around the cost and what all was needed... it was very pricey compared to natural breeding. No way I could pencil it out for a calf going to auction.

The biggest killer was the conception percentage. Even the best of the best conception rates would put us out of business. You definitely have to have a goal like expanding on genetics or some thing of that nature.
I find it interesting when beef farmers use conception rates as a reason for not using AI. I agree that some AI users have poor conception rates but bull breeders may also have similar problems. Several post mention culling open cows after preg checking. AI breeders should be able to determine if cows are cycling during the breeding season and which cows are multiple breeders. cows not cycling, cycling too often, or not conceiving can often get the problem fixed and get bred. if they do not fit into your calving window they can get sold for bred cows which are worth more $ around here. had a neighbor a few years ago that lost one calf crop because his bull didn't settle any cows even though he tested good before turning out. AI breeders that have good management skills and the time/ability to monitor cows during the breeding season could very well have better conception rates than bull breeders.
 

Brute 23

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I find it interesting when beef farmers use conception rates as a reason for not using AI. I agree that some AI users have poor conception rates but bull breeders may also have similar problems. Several post mention culling open cows after preg checking. AI breeders should be able to determine if cows are cycling during the breeding season and which cows are multiple breeders. cows not cycling, cycling too often, or not conceiving can often get the problem fixed and get bred. if they do not fit into your calving window they can get sold for bred cows which are worth more $ around here. had a neighbor a few years ago that lost one calf crop because his bull didn't settle any cows even though he tested good before turning out. AI breeders that have good management skills and the time/ability to monitor cows during the breeding season could very well have better conception rates than bull breeders.
I read those statement also and also wonder what is going on there. My guess is bought cows with an emphasis on auction barn cows.

We rarely have a wide open cow. If one is it's usually some thing that would effect either breeding method. Even with the unconrollables we are talking 1 or 2%... maybe. The people teaching the class said 40% starting out with AI... 50-60% if you get really good... and the people selling semen said 80%. Its worse with sexed semen. All of those are horrible.

No matter how I run the numbers AI is at least double or triple the cost of natural breeding and that's with competitive conception rates and $100 or less straws. It's horrible with realistic rates.

So is it cheaper than buying the $70K bull... yes.😄 Is it cheaper than putting a good bull out... no.
 

Ky hills

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Years ago when I had a registered Charolais herd, I used AI for several years and had great results as far as quality of calves and conception rates. At that time we synchronized them with two shots of Lutalyse and then observed for heats morning and evening. At that time there was a friend that was an AI tech here in the county that was willing to come and breed twice daily depending on when we found them in heat. We got great conception rates with that program. Years later I got into doing a commercial bred heifer program, and by then the techs that were doing it were using CIDRs and TAI, which at best yielded 50% conception rates all the way down to 20% conception. If someone can do the AI'ing themselves then I think its worthwhile if you get good conception rates, but to depend on someone else with the TAI protocols it proved worthless for me. I had the expense of the AI plus the expense of bulls.
The sales themselves eventually proved that the heifers being AI bred wasn't a game changer. One year the auctioneer of the sale was one that does Angus sales and he made the observation during the sale that the AI bred heifers were worth $200 more than natural service.
The next year I got a bit of enjoyment out having the top selling group of heifers that happened to be natural service.
To me its more about what is convenient to each outfit. I don't see AI as practical for our commercial cow/calf outfit. The only time that I would justify it now is with some of our registered cows, to get some bull calves to retain. Of course on days that bulls are giving trouble then it gets to sounding a bit more appealing.
For the most part, I can't see running the cows through the chute that many times and investing the money in AI and also having to maintain bulls too.
 

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