Many of the spring beef bull sales are now wrapped-up and cow-calf producers have purchased bull power for the 2012 breeding season. Calculating the service cost per cow with new bull values may surprise you. Many of you should calculate the bull cost per cow to determine if natural service or A.I. is a better investment.
A $4,000 yearling bull averaging 25 cows bred over three years will cost $60.06/pregnancy (includes annual maintenance fees). One-time A.I. programs run from $45-60 for breeding fees but generally only get 60-80% pregnancy rates, so a clean-up bull is still warranted. The real benefit comes with selection of the bull to match individual cows and subsequent calf markets. Bull quality improves with A.I. options thus increasing the value of calves and replacement animals in your operation.
A.I. requires increased handling and management. For many cow-calf producers, the handling hurdle is too great. If you need a starting point, try A.I. breeding your replacement heifers and see how calving heifers early in one group can improve your success. This option also allows for the use of high accuracy calving ease bulls without owning another bull.
Combining A.I. with natural service works best for most producers, so we generally still need the bull for clean-up. Anyone with questions about A.I. programs for your beef operations should start by working with a local A.I. technician or by visiting the Iowa Beef Center. For additional cattle management resources, visit the MSU Beef Team.