AgCenter Provides Cattle Producers With Practical Learning Opportunities

Albert Faulk, Edwards, Ashley K, Holmes, Jason E., Deshotel, Vincent

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A. Lee Faulk, Jason E. Holmes, Vince Deshotel and Ashley K. Edwards

As beef cattle production in Louisiana is primarily composed of cow-calf operations in which the producer maintains the cows, breeds them and markets the resulting calves, cattle reproduction is a foremost concern. Recognizing the need for practical educational opportunities designed for beef cattle producers on topics related to cattle reproduction, LSU AgCenter beef cattle agents and specialists have developed classes and clinics on subjects such as artificial insemination and pregnancy determination to further producers’ knowledge.

Breeding beef cattle is of utmost importance to Louisiana cattle producers. While most producers in the state continue to use bulls to provide natural service to their cattle herd, many see the value and potential in artificial insemination. Artificial insemination, known as A.I. in the industry, is not a new practice. The dairy industry, within the state and nationwide, pioneered A.I. and has come to rely on this technique to breed cattle.

The use of A.I. in beef cattle has grown in popularity among Louisiana beef cattle producers as they recognize the benefits such as reduced reliance on bulls, the ability to incorporate new or highly sought-after genetics into their herd, the benefit of synchronization for breeding cattle and much more. Still, the thought of beginning to implement a new technology or management practice can be daunting for some producers. In response to this need for education and hands-on learning among producers on A.I., the LSU AgCenter beef cattle agents and specialists conduct classes regularly throughout the state.

Held at the Hill Farm Research Station in Homer, the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria and the Doyle Chambers Central Research Station in Baton Rouge, these classes provide producers with the background knowledge and practical experience needed to successfully incorporate A.I. into their operations.

Spread over several days, these classes are composed of classroom activities designed to educate attendees on the science behind A.I. and management strategies to ensure success, along with laboratory time where producers can practice A.I. techniques on live cattle. All aspects of A.I. are covered during these classes, including anatomy and physiology of cattle, semen quality and handling, estrous synchronization, equipment needs, herd reproductive health and nutrition management. After being offered for more than five years, these courses continue to fill with producers wanting to improve their operations using A.I.

Breeding cattle is one matter; determining if a cow is pregnant is another. With the costs to maintain a cow increasing due to rising input prices, having a cow that is not pregnant after breeding can be a huge economic loss to a cattle producer. However, less than one-third of beef cattle producers implement any kind of pregnancy determination in their operation.

To address this need among cattle producers, in 2019 the LSU AgCenter beef cattle agents and specialists developed a unique learning opportunity in Louisiana, the Cattle Pregnancy Determination Clinic. Held annually at the Hill Farm Research Station in Homer, the Cattle Pregnancy Determination Clinic educates producers on all aspects of pregnancy determination and management in cattle. LSU AgCenter faculty and staff, along with area veterinarians, educate producers on determining pregnancy via ultrasound, blood testing and rectal palpation, along with pregnancy management strategies and herd health. Incorporating classroom and laboratory time in this one-day event allows attendees to put the concepts they learn into practice utilizing live cattle.

The beef cattle industry in Louisiana is constantly evolving, and the LSU AgCenter beef cattle agents and specialists utilize producer input through the advisory process to meet the ever-changing needs of cattle producers. Beef cattle are an important component of Louisiana’s agricultural landscape and will continue to be so for years to come.

LSU AgCenter faculty and staff working in beef cattle production will continue to provide relevant, up-to-date, research-based information and educational opportunities to Louisiana’s beef cattle producers to ensure a bright future for the industry. For more information on beef cattle clinics or classes, contact your local extension office, research station, regional livestock agent, or our website https://www.lsuagcenter.com/beefcattle.

A. Lee Faulk is an associate livestock agent for the Northwest Region. Jason E. Holmes is a livestock specialist for the Northeast Region. Vince Deshotel is a livestock agent for the Central Region. Ashley K. Edwards is the statewide extension livestock specialist based at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria.

Sidebar: The Value of Artificial Insemination in Beef Cattle Production

Kenneth R. Bondioli

The use of artificial insemination in a cattle breeding program comes with costs, including labor, proper facilities, supplies and the purchase of semen. Also, the cattle must be on a proper plane of nutrition, which can be costly. The improved genetics available through artificial insemination need to offset these costs. This has not always been the case for beef cattle production, and for this reason artificial insemination has been sparingly used in beef cattle production.

Significant improvements in the genetic selection of bulls used to produce semen and the increased value of the product have shifted the cost-benefit equation more in favor of artificial insemination, and its use has increased. The use of sex-sorted semen, which has become readily available, can also make a significant improvement in the cost benefit analysis. However, the program must be successful. Cows need to get pregnant.

The program needs to be properly implemented, which means proper cattle management — either control of the cow’s reproductive cycles or proper observation so insemination occurs at the proper time. Techniques such as semen handling and the insemination process need to be properly conducted. If the choice to use sex-sorted semen is made, these factors become more critical. However, it can be highly profitable for the producer if properly implemented.

Kenneth R. Bondioli is the Daniel Ivy Dupree Professor of Animal Sciences

in the LSU AgCenter School of Animal Sciences and a member of the Louisiana Agriculture editorial board.

These articles appeared in the fall 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.

A man inserts vials into a tall tank.

John Merrill, Technician for ABS Global, volunteers at the Louisiana Producer A.I. School to discuss proper care and handling of semen tanks, as well as equipment needed for artificial insemination in cattle. Photo by Ashley K. Edwards

A woman palpates a cow.

Class participant Kelli Lucas Guillot practices the proper artificial insemination technique of threading an A.I. gun through the cervix of a cow. Photo by Ashley K. Edwards

12/20/2022 5:18:28 PM
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