After making the progressive decision to implement artificial insemination (A.I.) into your beef cattle herd, there is one big word for you to focus on. That word is:
Stockmanship is the knowledgeable and skillful handling of livestock in a safe, efficient, effective and low stress manner (Stockmanship Journal).
While it’s important to practice good stockmanship skills whenever handling cattle, it’s especially important when you have a group of females set up for A.I. You have to realize this is the third time in 20 days the females have gone through your facilities, you have manipulated their hormones and, if you’re A.I.ing cows, there are now calves involved. That might sound like a lot of hassle, but the results next spring or fall will be well worth it!
Here are a few simple points about stockmanship during an A.I. project that will make your day much more enjoyable.
1. Get the right crew
That means the right cowboy crew. GENEX will provide you with an excellent breeding crew. You can count on that!
Get your crew involved and excited about the A.I. project before it starts. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about showing up on time, making certain someone is in charge of supplies, sharing the value of A.I. and reminding them this is a little different than branding or weaning day.
When it comes to gathering, sorting and getting cattle through the A.I. barn, nothing is worse than having people there who don’t believe in what you are doing. If your cowboy crew is excited about A.I. day, they are calmer, more patient and easier on the cattle. All these things translate to more pregnancies and more money in your pocket.
When it comes to the cowboy crew, remember less is more. Less people with more experience and patience yield better results almost every time. The right crew will be the difference in your success.
2. Facility design
When it comes to facilities, it’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel; it’s about making sure everything is in the right place so you can do more with less. With a virgin heifer A.I. project, you can usually leave everything the way it is for everyday use. Not much sorting needs to happen, and facilities are usually designed to process yearling size cattle.
With an A.I. project involving mature cows, her calf is added to the equation, but it’s not that bad! Anyone who has A.I.ed mature cows will tell you the first time they were a little uneasy, because they didn’t know what to expect. In the years to follow, it just becomes part of the process.
GENEX can help with minor changes to your facilities to get pairs split in a safe, low stress and efficient manner. Little things, such as removing the bottom two rails of a panel for calves to go under into a separate holding pen, can be an easy add-on to any facility.
3. Cattle Handling
First things first, please do your A.I. crew a favor and check everyone’s truck, trailer and even their saddlebags to ensure every hot shot was left at home! The worst tool someone can bring to an A.I. project is a hot shot with fresh batteries.
Based on firsthand experience, standing behind cattle that have had a hot shot used on them in the alley makes for an unsafe work environment. Instead, use tools such as flag whips, sorting sticks or fiberglass poles. These items induce less stress on cattle than hot shots, and when the cattle aren’t stressed neither is the crew. Everyone wins!
It doesn’t take much to make your A.I. project a success. A little stockmanship goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to talk to your crew beforehand about what is expected, and never miss an opportunity to help correct what someone is doing in order to make things run smoother. Handling cattle is a continual learning process, and every situation is unique. Sometimes you have to be creative and think outside of the box.