AI experiencing resurgence

Whangara AI 2 May 2017

The use of artificial insemination (AI) in commercial beef cow herds is experiencing a resurgence.

Xcell Breeding and Veterinary Services is the largest provider of sheep and beef AI and reproductive services in the South Island. Managing Director Greg McKay says beef AI has increased 10-fold over the 20 years that the company has been operating.

“When we started, it was just the studs doing it. We targeted a few people about 10 years ago and now it’s a 50/50 mix of commercial and stud. It has especially grown over the past three years, with the Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics Beef Progeny Test putting it back on the radar.”

All five large-scale properties involved in the test have found AI was not as much drama as they had anticipated. The first year, the cows – and the farm staff – were new to the practice and everyone was finding their way. The average conception rate for the 2014 mating was 49%. By the second mating, the cows and staff were more familiar with the process and conception rates rose to 56%. Results for the 2016 mating are pending.

Whangara Farms near Gisborne is one of the five Beef Progeny Test properties and manager Richard Scholefield embraced the opportunity to experiment with AI. In fact, it was one of the key aspects that drew him into the project.

“In the first year, we were concerned that it would be a major job bringing cows and calves in three or four times, but in reality it wasn’t a problem. This last year we had 800 cows in the programme and also did 400 on our own account.”

Whangara Farms is planning to AI even more cows in the future. “We are seeing the value of using top genetics, with the way the calves out of these bulls are performing. 

“I’m really excited about the potential of AI for the commercial New Zealand farmer. I have wondered for a few years about whether it was an opportunity but was always told that it was too expensive and not cost effective. AI is a real opportunity for farmers wanting to speed up their genetic gain and increase performance and production in their herds.”

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