Learning Something New: Artificial Insemination

Image Credit: Partners In Reproduction

It’s a 3 hour drive back to the house, across the Tennessee River and on highways unknown. Maybe it’s enough time for my fingers to thaw and feet to warm. After standing in the cold barn with snow cover all day, I’m mighty glad to remember the thermals and thick socks. I learned a new piece of the trade today. Growing up with 1,200 cows on the ranch, when breeding season came around, we let all the bulls do the work. Now that I am in graduate school, I’m learning about the use of artificial insemination methods to breed cattle.

It just made sense in our commercial operation to invest in good bulls rather than have to handle all the cows multiple times for synchronization and insemination. However, for smaller producers or purebred operations, using artificial insemination is a great tool to expand genetics in the herd and make available genetics from proven sires without the investment in a live bull.

The typical cattleman in many areas will have 30-60 head, many have off-farm jobs, and may use their cattle as supplementary income. Let’s take farmer Joe who has 60 cows. He AIs his cows and has a minimum of 50% conception rates. He can cut his bull requirements in half, using only one bull to cover his cows. Using AI Joe can utilize crossbreeding in his herd for more heterosis in the calf crops and replacement heifers. Then if Joe has a town job during the week, he can utilize synchronization methods for timed-breeding and a closer calf crop, reducing the amount of time he spends away from the town job or using hired help. And using synchronization Joe can bring his entire season closer together and have a more uniform calf crop.

These steps may require some investment in equipment or hiring out for the job, but by the time ya add the benefits (more uniform calf crop, proven genetics, less time calving) Joe might end up money ahead.

Artificial Insemination techniques are a new skill for me, but I have a few good guys to learn from. I spent the whole day fishing semen straws from the tank and loading the insemination guns. I may have been shiverin all day with the cold wind at my back, but I’m still pretty doggone excited to be learning new skills in the cattle business. Wouldn’t have it any other way!

Select Sires is a company out of Ohio that handles breeding and genetics services for beef and dairy cattle producers. This page contains links to several pages that describe the process of artificial insemination and related techniques. Oklahoma State also provides a great review of AI techniques in cattle. Be sure to contact your veterinarian or extension office for services available in your area.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

 “Instead of pursing a career I could of made a lot of money at, I pursued what I love.” — Joe Leathers, 6666 Ranch

Want to know what AI looks like? Be sure to stop by this post from another rancher for some great photos.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. AI is not only a good tool to increase uniformity in your calves but to also is a good tool to raise your own replacement heifers. Back in the 90’s when i worked for Leachman Cattle Co in Billings we only synchronized the replacement heifers. The 1,500 cow main herd we bred in the pasture on natural heat in a three cycle (63 day) breeding season.

    One thing to remember when synchronizing is that you need to heat detect and breed on natural heat for 5 days before syncing. Failure to do so will automatically reduce your breeding rate by 25%. You can increase your success even farther if, rather than timed breeding, you heat detect and breed on the heat rather than the time. This may seem like it is too time and labor consuming but it can increase your success rate by another 15 or 20%

  2. Wish we had had AI when we got into the cattle business in the 50s! We had to find a decent bull for our cows and load ’em up and take ’em to be bred, then bring ’em back home again. Some people back then thought AI was going to ruin the bull market. It didn’t. Just caused a lot of poor bulls to be turned into feeders and gave us little breeders a chance to use some of the best bulls available. My husband and a couple of my sons learned to AI our cows. Sure beat hauling ’em to the next county to a bull.
    Have fun, Ryan.

  3. I grew up with my Dad making his living as an A.I. technician working in 7 counties in Southern Illinois. He drove an average of 200 miles a day going from farm to farm as the larger farms began learning to do their own A.I. he could no longer make a living at it. There were some that only had one family cow that would call him while others had large dairy herds. We have always rented our bulls for our small herd and we keep our own bucks for the goats. I have always wanted to learn A.I. for the goats to help improve the genetics without having to own as many bucks. My Dad will soon be 91 he has a great deal of trouble with his shoulder one doctor commented to him they had always wondered what the occupational hazards were from doing A.I. :-).

  4. Thanks for sharing this! My husband and I have been pondering on going to an A.I school/training classes that are offered in our area and learning how to do this. I will share this article and links with him! Sounds like it would be worth the investment!

    1. Yes proper heat detection is a great addition to synch protocols. And avoiding stressed out cattle around this time is always a positive. Good luck Elizabeth. If you’re ever looking for more on it, I have more where this came from.

Leave a Reply