With the advent of Mycoplasma bovis and the national eradication programme, many farmers are looking for ways to reduce the number of animal movements on and off their properties. Understandably, some farmers are thinking about 100% artificial breeding (AB) for cows and/or yearling heifers so they can avoid buying bulls. Going 'all-AB' is not something to take lightly. We want to make sure you are fully informed, so here are some of the main points you should consider.
Unless you synchronise your cows, going all-AB relies entirely on sustained excellent heat detection. In reality, heat detection performance typically declines in the second round of AB on many farms, suggesting that people can struggle to maintain focus even with a standard AB length. You should objectively review heat detection performance on your farm and, even if it is good, think hard about whether you will be able to keep the effort up for even longer before committing. Once you start on the all-AB track, you cannot easily change your mind half way through mating. The longer AB is performed, the more important heat detection accuracy is, so we recommend using two heat detection aids if you go all-AB.
Secondly, if you plan to AB your heifers, you may want to reduce the amount of heat detection and yarding by using a synchrony programme. Heifer synchrony programmes are usually followed by bull mating. Without bulls, you not be able to match the pregnancy rates you previously achieved. You either need to re-synchronise the heifers at least once or perform daily heat detection and yarding and mate to detected heats. Therefore, the conception rates of your synchrony program are crucial to the overall mating success. The better grown and healthier your heifers are, the higher their conception rates will be, so should weigh your heifers to ensure they are well-grown and rule out other factors that decrease their fertility, such as BVD. You should also take into account the amount of labour involved with repeated sychrony programmes and the suitability of facilities. We can help you work out if mating heifers entriely by AB is a good option for you.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch to speak with one of our vets.