May 01, 2017

(Dan) Hi folks, Dr. Dan from DocTalk here. Thanks for joining us today. We’re gonna talk about synchronizing in AI cows and heifers with Dr. Bob Larson from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. We’re glad you joined us. It’s a great time of year. Thanks for watching DocTalk and I hope that you enjoy this show.

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(Dan) Hey folks welcome to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Bob Larson. Welcome to the show. (Bob) Good to be here Dan. (Dan) Dr. Larson is a professor of Clinical Sciences here at Kansas State University where he serves as the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine. And he teaches numerous classes here and you’ve got an Extension role, you’ve got a research role, you’ve got a teaching role. You spend a lot of time with our producers. But this is one of those topics you’ve spent a lot of time on. (Bob) Yes, I think that the technology of AI has been around for a long time, but how to utilize it in ranching situations is still somewhat of a challenge, but a great opportunity. (Dan) Absolutely. And folks, Dr. Larson is one of those people that not only can get down to the nitty gritty on the scientific level, but he’s been in private practice and understands what goes on in a cowherd and so let’s just get rolling into this – the synchronization in AI. Why not just kick the bulls out in the pasture? (Bob) You know there’s a lot of times where kicking the bulls out is by far the easiest. Bulls are not inexpensive so even that process of selecting and using those bulls well takes some good management to really optimize that but the great thing about AI is the ability to use bulls that have many, many offspring. And when you have a bull that’s had so many off spring, you really know how he’s gonna perform. We call that a proven bull. So it’s a bull that we know what we’re gonna get. And by purchasing semen you can get the traits that you’re really looking for for your herd – if you need more growth, more carcass traits, more of the reproduction traits. You can really find those bulls that you’re really confident that because he’s had so many offspring already that that’s what you’re gonna get when you breed to those cows. So, one of the big advantages to using AI sires is that knowledge of that superior genetics that you’re gonna get. (Dan) And when you’re just starting out or you know even from the beginner herd to the advanced herd you know, there are different advantages to those. (Bob) Exactly. You know, I’ve helped some herds that are basically 4-H, FFA type projects of really small groups, up to herds of several hundred to a thousand cows and trying to figure out how to make AI work in those different situations. (Dan) And it really is a way to change your genetics quickly. (Bob) It really is, because you know, usually when we’re buying natural service bulls, we’re buying what they potentially could do. And you know we use EPD’s to make sure that we’re buying the bulls that really fit our needs, but you don’t really know how they’re gonna perform until you’ve got cows on the ground. And so you get to take a short cut with AI. (Dan) OK. So, other reasons on why to do it. (Bob) You know, when we work with herds that synchronize, especially if the herd is fertile and they have a lot of cows calve early in the calving season, when you add a synchronization protocol, you can actually move the average calving date up a few days.
Now I don’t want to oversell that… you can’t change…you can’t shove Mother Nature. All you can do is nudge her a little bit. And so we’re talking about moving the average calf calving date up a few days. But these calves are going to be gaining more than a couple of pounds a day and at the prices we’re seeing right now, if you move the herd up even five days, that starts to be five days, times two pounds a day, times 2.50 a pound, you’re talking about some dollars that are worth… (Dan) Twenty five bucks. (Bob) Kind of invisible money. Just by having those calves a little bit earlier. So, you get the advantage of the increased genetics as well as some… the opportunity at least, to really kind of move that calving season earlier. (Dan) Perfect. Folks, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back more with Dr. Bob Larson on AI and synchronization of your cowherd.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Bob Larson who is the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And Bob, you’re a regular on the show. A lot of people are starting to familiarize you with the show. It’s great. It’s great for K-State, it’s great for the beef industry. We really appreciate you taking the time to be on the show and sharing it with our viewers around the world. But as we were talking during the break, we’re gonna jump into one of the things…we talked about the why and that’s the genetics and the shortening… moving up the calving date. But let’s talk about who our candidates are and why we’re picking those animals. (Bob) Right. In most situations that I’ve deal with, most herds, the heifers are probably the easiest group to start with with synchronization in the AI program. And a couple of reasons that are real obvious, is those heifers don’t have a suckling calf on them. And when you start talking about a synchronization program where you have to run cattle through a squeeze shoot and sort ’em off, when I’m dealing with my adult cows, I’m having to sort off the calves and work with them in that way. So, a lot of times if you’ve never done this before, the easiest group to start with is the heifers. And they’re really a good group to do that with because a lot of times we manage them separately. They may be in a dry lot or a grass tract where it’s a little bit easier to handle them. They’re nearer our facilities many times. And the other thing is I recommend that we kind of breed those heifers a little bit earlier than the rest of the cows. And again, just from… especially for spring calving herds, just the way the calendar works, we can get those heifers bred really before grass turnout time. Whereas again, with my cows it’s a little bit later and we’ve got a few other problems. (Dan) Right. (Bob) So, often times if someone has never utilized synchronization and AI, I think those heifers are a great place to start. (Dan) And we’re also… when you’re talking about moving that calving date up a little bit, when we’re trying to focus on helping those heifers have their first calf, on the other end of it, and some of the colostrum isn’t as potent as the cow’s colostrum and so there are some other advantages of pushing those heifers up a little bit sooner. (Bob) You bet. We really like it when the cows born out of heifers are born very early in the calving season. They get a chance to get started real well before the rest of the calves come along. And that way they can stay healthier and we have less problems with them. (Dan) Yea, cleaner environment. They’re not contaminated by the other calves and things to that nature. So, a lot of advantages to those. So, if we’re gonna pick the cows, what are some of the things on cows? (Bob) And again, I’ve worked with ranches that have just a few cows, up to a lot of cows. And it’s really all about how to make that work in their system. That comes to when you design the synchronization protocol and exactly how you do this. (Dan) Right. (Bob) But basically to make this work, you do have to have some facilities. Because for any of the synchronization protocols that we’re going to use, the cows are going to be run through the squeeze chute at least a couple of times, and that has to… you have to be able to do that smoothly and efficiently. You need to be able to sort off the calves. And so, a lot of it is really facilities. So, before we talk about… when I work with a herd and they want to implement AI in their cows. It’s really looking at their pasture situation, their facilities. Are they set up close… are the handling facilities close to where we can do this and actually make it happen? (Dan) Cool. So, start with the heifers. Look at your facilities if you’re gonna work with cows. More with Bob Larson on how to AI and synchronize cows when we return from the break.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. Bob Larson from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Larson is the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine and part of the Department of Clinical Sciences here at the Veterinary College. And Bob we’re talking about AI and synchronization. We’ve been leading up to why we do it, who the candidates are, make sure you have your facilities. We’ve decided it’s what we’re gonna do. (Bob) Right. (Dan) So, now we’ve got to synchronize those cows. So who’s gonna be involved? What do I need to think about? (Bob) The good thing is really in almost any community in the United States, there’s gonna be some real good resources. One of the first people to go talk to is your veterinarian. (Dan) Sure. (Bob) They’re familiar with the synchronization protocols and how we get that done. Also, most communities have a semen supplier or two in the area and these guys are very knowledgeable as well. They provide information about synchronization protocols. They can provide you some real good guidance on which bulls to select. And I have found the resources to actually accomplish synchronization and AI are high quality and readily available. (Dan) You bet. So, when we start thinking about synchronizing these animals, there’s a lot of different programs out there. (Bob) There are. And there’s been a lot of work done by reproductive physiologists and veterinarians and I’m really pretty happy with quite a few different synchronization protocols. Some of them are relatively short. You can accomplish the synchronization in seven days. And some of them are longer, more like a month. And each have their advantages and disadvantages. And that’s why working with your local veterinarian and the semen supplier is a great way when you talk about what you have for facilities and how you want this to accomplish, they can find a synchronization protocol that will work pretty well for you. (Dan) And it will probably have to do with your facilities, how you’re set up, the expertise that you have on the facility who’s gonna be doing the AI. (Bob) For the most part, again in my experience, the semen suppliers often times have technicians that can do the AI. Or veterinary clinics a lot of times have a technician that can do the AI. And so that is something that you can relatively easily outsource to, again, people that are in the community and in most parts of the country you’re gonna be able to find someone that has those skills and I highly recommend that versus trying to AI yourself. If you’re gonna AI a lot of cows, I think it’s great to learn yourself. But in general I like to outsource that to the guys that do it everyday. (Dan) And if you were gonna want to learn there are AI courses across the United States and some here at K-State even. (Bob) You bet cha. And so for some people that’s the best option is to learn to do AI themselves and there are a lot of courses that they can learn to do that. (Dan) Anything else on synching up the herd? (Bob) Well, one of the things that we often… is not every cow maybe should be synchronized in AI. So, when I look at mature cows, one of the things I think about is, do you want to try to synchronize the entire cow herd? Or maybe just the ones that calve early? n my experience those cows that calve in the first 30 to 40 days are going to be the best candidates. And a lot of herds, that’s kind of a subgroup. And usually that’s the majority of the herd, but they will identify that group of cows that they want to synchronize in AI. Sometimes that’s when they calved. Sometimes that’s geographic location. We can do it in this pasture, but not in this pasture, so we’re gonna utilize synchronization and AI in part of the cows and not the others. And those are all good reasons and a thought process that you need to think about. So with those cows, I like the early calving cows… are my favorite cows to synchronize. (Dan) We’re gonna take a break. When we come back, more with Dr. Larson on synchronizing and AI in cows and heifers in your herd. You’re watching DocTalk, thanks for joining us.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine, Dr. Bob Larson at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and we’re talking about AI and synchronization, something that is a foundation of a lot of people’s herds. (Bob) Yea. (Dan) And so let’s… you know, we talked about selecting the cows and the early calvers, but there’s maybe some repro tract scoring and things we need to do on these heifers too. (Bob) There’s some really neat things we can do with heifers. Again, a lot of times the question that I’m asked to answer is, is this group of heifers ready to be synchronized? Have they reached puberty? Are they fertile? Are they ready to be bred? And I am going to invest some money in the synchronization protocol and this semen that’s from proven sires. So, I want to make sure that I’ve got a pretty good chance of being successful with the pregnancies. So, over the last couple of decades there has been some really nice work about how we can evaluate heifers to make sure that they’re ready for the breeding season, there’s some things that we know that body weight and size impacts a lot of the information as far as have they reached puberty or not? So, even just a body weight is a good place to start. The other thing we know is that if we put a sleeve on and go in there and palpitate the reproductive tract we can tell if the heifer is mature and cycling already or nearly cycling. And I really recommend that, particularly with these heifers that we haven’t had a lot of experience with or a group of heifers. I really like to find out where they are. Now, the timing of that examination can vary. For some producers we like to do it about six weekends before they want to breed. (Dan) Right. (Bob) That way if those heifers are really not quite where we want them to be, not a high enough percentage of them have already started cycling, we can increase their nutrition, cause a little bit of nutritional flush will put some weight on them and get some more of them to cycle. So, for some groups I like to do my evaluation about six weeks out. There’s other times though that for some herds, they know they’re not going to synchronize all the heifers. And so, we’ll do the evaluation right before we start the synchronization program. So, seven to ten days before they want to AI, we’ll do an evaluation, but then we really only synchronize those that are already cycling or really close to cycling. And so it allows you to kind of optimize those expenses of the synchronization and AI so that you pick those heifers that are most likely to really be successful. (Dan) It’s.. the size and the body weight and the nutrition during the winter and getting those heifers in condition. (Bob) All of that’s important to make sure they’re gonna be where we want them to be maturity wise. (Dan) Yea, water, nutrition, animal husbandry, all that. We always lean on… we worry about breeding when it’s that time of the year, and we really need to worry about it year round. (Bob) That’s exactly right. You know this reproduction is complicated. We spend a lot of time teaching the students about it and they know it’s complicated. But basically good management, birth all the way through that first breeding season, is really important. (Dan) Thanks for being on the show today. (Bob) You bet cha. It’s good to be here. (Dan) It’s always good to have Dr. Bob Larson. And Dr. Larson and I agree, always work with your local practitioner and if you want to know more about what Dr. Larson and I do here at K-State, you can find us on the web at Thanks for watching DocTalk today. I hope you enjoyed the show. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.

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