Accessing better genetics by the use of AI in a suckler herd in Co. Down

Farming in the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, Artie Birt runs a suckler-to-beef enterprise. The majority of cows are Simmental X Limousin and are bred to terminal Charolais sires. All progeny are finished and a number of calves are bucket reared on the farm also.

Originally, seven stock bulls were employed for use during the breeding season.

“We found the stock bulls finished up lying about all year; they were only needed a few weeks,” he explains in the video below that was broadcast on tonight’s episode of [email protected] as part of Teagasc Virtual Beef Week.

“Although you only need four or five bulls, you always had young bulls that needed small groups, and you always needed a spare bull in case another bull got hurt.

“You had seven bulls that needed a house; it was costing too much to keep them, so we started looking at another option,” he added.

Artie was involved in the joint Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Teagasc research trial in 2014 which involved the use of AI and achieved conception rates of 60-72% to first service.

Synchronisation

Synchronisation has been used on the farm as far back as 2012. Artie notes that it is used to keep the calving interval tight, while also pulling late-calving cows forward.

“The most number of cows we ever synchronised in one particular day was 81. There’s a natural spread anyway in cows from the cow that calves 10 days’ early to the one that runs 14 days or so late.

“We have 12 calving pens to 180 cows. It’s not a huge issue calving that many cows and we would use the gestation length of the bull to our advantage.

“You could use a shorter gestation Limousin and have her calved before the longer gestation Charolais,” he added.

Artie highlights that there are many advantages to using AI on the farm. As he purchases large amounts of straws each year, he can negotiate the price with his vet or AI technician.

“No matter how good your stock bull is, your figures will not be as accurate as what you will get out of an AI catalogue,” he concluded.

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