How long until AI of beef cows is common?

Until AI-sired calves demand a premium, commercial farmer use of AI will broadly remain the territory of larger operations and those with a passion for genetics, according to agricultural consultant Geoff Dunham.
Tuesday, 7 November 2017

He says programmes, such as Silver Fern Farms’ Beef EQ, which pays a premium for meat quality attributes, have the potential to bring more objective thinking into calf buying and finishing – and, therefore, clarity around the value of superior calves.

“As farmers become more aware of calves’ real financial value – particularly terminally-sired calves – there will be a greater benefit in AI.”

Geoff says that, in the meantime, unless a farmer can finish AI progeny himself or sell them as a well-forward store, the economics do not stack up, because the farmers is unlikely to receive a sufficient margin for the sale of those progeny as youngsters.

“You can argue that Angus or Hereford get a premium and sell better, but it’s still a small margin and not significant enough to pay for AI.

“AI does offer a tool to bring farmers together in joint ventures – one to breed and start growing out and one to finish to maximum potential weights.”

Farmers’ take on AI

Geoff says farmers tend to fall into two camps, when it comes to AI: Those who think it is for better farmers on better country. And those who are aware of AI as a tool that allows precise mating and harness better genetics.

“They have a broad idea of the drug programme and what is required to do AI. But they may or may not have an accurate estimation of feed or work requirements.”

Bigger question

Geoff believes farmers are uncertain about the role of breeding cows on typical east coast sheep and beef farms. “It’s changing progressively, as farmers change feed type and cover. Sheep can eat the improved feed and the requirement for cows to groom feed is easing.

“A lot of farmers are trying to get to grips with right number of beef cows, and moving towards more finishing and less breeding.”

He says farmers need a long-term view for AI to work. “There is no sense having a flirt with it for one season.”