Consider factors before starting a heat synchronization program


AMES, Iowa – An Iowa State University expert says there are many things to consider before jumping into a beef cattle estrus synchronization program.

Daryl Strohbehn, professor of animal science, advises producers to research and estimate all the elements involved with a heat synch program.

“Each system has its own strengths and weaknesses, and producers need to develop a game plan before taking the first step,” he says.

Economic effects. As with any business, the slightest change in management can have a significant effect in economic returns.

An estrus synchronization program is no different, according to Strohbehn.

The cow herd. Body condition and calving times affect cows as a candidate for estrus synchronization

Perhaps the most significant aspect involved is timely labor availability.

Even the least-detailed estrus synch program is labor-intensive for short periods of time, and Strohbehn cautions producers to consider work limitations, especially when it comes to the insemination process.

“When heat synchronization is successful and there is a good heat response from the herd, there will be long periods of hard work which could lead to exhaustion of the inseminator, so be prepared because sloppy insemination processes can make a well-planned program unsuccessful,” he said.

Handling facility. Different synchronization systems have variation in the number of times cattle have to be worked through the chute which not only affects labor needs but also requires the consideration of handling facilities, stress on the herd and the risk of injury to animals and humans.

“A very good handling facility is necessary for synchronized AI programs,” Strohbehn added.

Evaluation. Evaluating the herd for estrus synchronization is another important factor to consider.

Late-calving cows and heifers and animals having a poor body condition when calving are poor candidates for AI.

Strohbehn adds that producers need to have guarded expectations.

“Don’t expect miracles when it comes to synchronized pregnancy rates. A 50 to 60 percent pregnancy rate with an estrus synchronization program can be determined a success,” he notes.

This compares to 65 to 70 percent success (per cycle) in a natural breeding program.

Options. Thinking through the options associated with estrus synchronization may be more important than implementing the program itself.

As a final thought, Strohbehn tells producers to “plan, plan, plan. For successful synchronized AI in your herd, make sure you cover all the bases.”

Synch strategies

When creating a strategy for synchronized artificial insemination, producers should consider these factors:

* Labor needs and trade-offs of labor from other parts of the operation

* Number of times cattle will need to be worked through the chute

* Cost of synchronized AI versus natural service

* Handling facility capability for working cattle

* Cost of bulls and the impact or the cost per pregnancy

* Impact of mating system on calving distribution

* Expectations for synchronized AI

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