Synchronisation can make AI more attractive to suckler farmers – Teagasc

At a suckler breeding event in Kildalton College this week the use of AI within the sector was on the top of the agenda.

Head of drystock in Teagasc Pearse Kelly said: “If you look at how many suckler farmers are using AI it is only about 17 out of every 100 cows that are producing a calf from AI. This compares to close to 70% in the dairy herd. There is a lot of room for improvement.

“The whole purpose of our role is to improve breed performance, but also genetic gain. One of the key ways of doing this is by using AI.” Kelly highlighted: “The main reason farmers don’t want to use AI is not because of the cost, not because they don’t believe the figures. It is because of the labour of it. That is where synchronisation might have a role.” In Kildalton on the day was David Kenny of Teagasc Grange who has huge experience in the area of using synchronisation and AI.

He said: “We are doing a major study this year on the whole are of synchronisation and improving AI in suckler herds. The concept of AI has been around for 30-40 years. Most farmers would see the merit of it. Unfortunately the use of AI is a lot lower than we would expect. With the advent of new indexes, AI holds huge opportunity for farmers to improve the genetics of their herds.” He commented: “Talking to farmers one of the big issues is heat detection and trying to bring their cows in from grass.

“We are looking at new ways to synchronise cows and bring them into heat in bunches. So they can be AI’d more efficiently and reduce the labour of constantly watching cows.” Kenny noted: “If you want to pick up heat in 90% of cows. You would have to watch them four times a day. For part-time farmers that is not an option.” “We have just started a new trial on synchronisation and are actively looking for farmers to work with us. There is a key interest now in effective heat synchronisation programmes to facilitate use of fixed time AI with no more than three handlings per cow.”

Advantages of AI

  • Access to high reliability bulls of superior genetic merit and known calving difficulty
  • Access to bulls capable of producing daughters with improved maternal traits
  • Access to multiple breeds to maximise hybrid vigour
  • Reduced biosecurity and health and safety risks

Oestrous Synchronisation of beef cows

  • Beef cows have longer post-partum interval than dairy cows
  • Often are on heat for shorter period and less heat activity
  • Oestrous Synchronisation can be used to
  1. Increases use of AI between the herd
  2. Tighten calving pattern
  • Reduce period of heat detection
  • Synchronisation regime can be commenced at 35 days, bred at 43 days, 6 weeks after calving
  • Conception rates can vary from 35-75%
  • Will be higher in cows
  • High level of breeding management in the herd needed.