Survey of Management Practices used in the Implementation of Artificial Insemination and Estrous Synchronization Programs in the United States
Artificial insemination (AI) and estrous synchronization (ES) remain underutilized tools by US beef producers. Little information is available on actual management practices used by producers who use these technologies and the value they have within their operation. An online survey tool was developed concerning a variety of production practices, synchronization methods and available tools used with AI and ES. A link to the survey was promoted through electronic extension publications, contact lists and cooperating news media. Producers that participated could enter a drawing for AI supplies at the completion of the survey. The survey was accessed by 546 individuals and 425 completed the survey. Responses came from 42 states. Average number of owned cows that were AI was 67 cows (range 0 to 1750) and 34 owned heifers (range 0 to 1500). Respondents represented commercial herds (56%), seedstock herds (67%), having both commercial and seedstock (44%), commercial heifer development (14%), AI Technicians (18%) and DVMs (18%). A majority of producers used AI for both cows and heifers (87%) with 8% use on heifers only and 5% on cows only. The proportion of respondents that always, usually, sometimes, rarely or never ES was 46%, 26%, 28%, 6%, and 4%, respectively. The frequency of use of AI after observed estrus, estrus AI followed by clean-up timed-AI and strict fixed-time AI was 42%, 25% and 34%, respectively and was similar between cows and heifers . A majority of respondents (97%) were familiar with the recommended protocols for synchronization of estrus and ovulation provided by the Beef Reproduction Task Force. Recommendations from these guidelines were generally used by 65% and sometimes or occasionally used by 20%. The estimated difference in value between AI-sired calves and natural service sired calves was highly variable and averaged $465 ± 689 per head. The most common ways that AI contributed to profitability were through value of replacement heifers (60%), seedstock production (46%), reduced calving difficulty (42%), and premium of calves sold at weaning (35%). Sex-sorted semen had been used by 27% of respondents for use in heifers to make heifers (43%), cows to make heifers (47%), or cows to make bulls (8%). Pregnancy rates to sex-sorted semen were reported to be about as expected (61%), better than expected (12%) or worse than expected (27%). Despite improvements in fixed-timed AI protocols, many producers still depend on AI after observed estrus.
Keywords: Artificial Insemination, Estrous Synchronization, management practices