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MU researcher tells value of timed breeding of cow herd at field day

Cow herd breeding that took three weeks of intensive labor has been cut to three hours. Jordan Thomas, University of Missouri graduate student, reviewed breeding history for farmers touring Greenley Center Field Day, Aug. 6.

Thomas told how artificial insemination of beef cows at the MU research farm results in more uniform, high-quality calves. Calves with better genetics sell for more.

In the past AI breeding required heat checks of cow herds, morning and night, day after day. Now, a herd can be synchronized for breeding on one day.

Thomas explained how farmers already use fixed-time artificial-insemination protocols to improve calves.

“There are protocols for just about every situation,” Thomas said, handing out a two-page guide of approved systems.

“We’re working to improve what we already have,” Thomas told visitors on the beef tour, one of three options. Crops, pest management and natural resources were topics on other tours “We’re developing a modified protocol for farmers already getting good pregnancy rates on their cows bred in one day.”

Thomas works on the MU beef reproduction team, headed by Dave Patterson, MU Extension specialist.

The researchers, as with other studies at Greenley, come from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Columbia. The new AI protocol tested at Greenley this spring increased pregnancy rates. A visitor on a tour wagon asked for a copy.

“We’re not ready yet,” Thomas said. “The data has not been published.”

That means it hasn’t been peer reviewed by other scientists and printed in a scientific journal.

Thomas added that 83 cows bred here were too few to be statistically sound. But, the team used the new protocol on 1,000 cows this spring. That includes MU Thompson Farm and private ranches. At Greenley, the improved protocol gave best success in breeding second-calf cows. Beef farmers know those as difficult to get bred and kept in the herd.

Pregnancies of two-year-old cows ran 77 percent.

“While that may not be statistically significant, it shows where we are going,” Thomas said.

Data from other herds supports local results. MU researchers checked pregnancies in the Greenley herd last week, using ultrasound. Farmers have proven protocols on the shelf, ready to use for both cows and heifers.

“We keep refining them,” Thomas said.

Also on the beef tour, producers heard how to improve grazing and hay feeding. Both lower production costs. Zac Irwin, regional extension specialist, Monticello, Mo., showed cow-calf pairs grazing sorghum-sudan in a four-paddock rotation.

Justin Sexten, MU Extension beef nutritionist, showed research on hay waste. He compared three bale feeders.

The AI protocols will be explained in detail at the MU Thompson Farm Field Day, Spickard, Sept. 17. Thompson Farm provides initial field testing for fixed time AI research.

MU faculty uses the farms to develop new ideas, demonstrate them to farmers and teach graduate students. The college is part of a land grant university that combines research, extension and teaching.

MU field days are free and open to the public.

Date: 8/26/2013


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