Heat synchronisation and AI offer salvation
MORE suckler producers are turning to heat synchronisation and AI this year as foot-and-mouth movement restrictions continue to make natural service difficult.
Using addresses from its own database and that of the National Beef Association, Genus recently mailed 9000 producers about AI. The companys beef specialist Neil Wharton reports the mailshot warrented 500 responses.
"We are seeing an increase in use of AI in areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, where movement restriction headaches make natural service difficult.
"Even when producers get a bull, it is 21 days before it can be moved again and there are the vet and disinfection costs associated with obtaining movement licences."
Although AI technicians cannot go on Form D farms, they can inseminate cows on farms in infected areas. However, there must usually be a seven-day break between visits, making synchronisation a more practical option than observed heats, says Mr Wharton.
"Most producers who have never used AI before are opting for the synchronisation route. This costs about £10-£12/cow for synchronisation and £10/cow for semen, with costs reducing as the number of cows increases."
Synchronisation requires cows to be handled four to five times, so it is important to minimise stress for optimal results, Mr Wharton advises.
"Keep cows on the same diet and together with calves for as long as possible during the insemination process. Handle them calmly and quickly."
Where AI to observed heats is possible, watch cows for at least 20 minutes three times a day, says Mr Wharton.
"This will allow producers to pick up most animals bulling. When a cow is bulling after about 10am, it is best to wait until the next morning before having her inseminated." *