Friday, August 19, 2011

Cattle News

Written by Bill Loftus
Conference Will Help Improve Northwest Beef Herds’ Reproduction, Genetics

, Idaho – Beef producers will learn how to increase the quality and efficiency of their herds through use of modern breeding technologies to improve genetics at a conference in Boise Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

University of Idaho animal scientist John B. Hall said the conference, “Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle – Northwest,” will draw together top beef experts from across the nation and is one of two planned nationwide this year.

The conference will focus on the technology of artificial insemination and the genetic and economic benefits for beef operations that adopt the practice, Hall said.

“The group that ramrods this is the beef reproduction task force, a consortium of land grant universities that work on beef cattle reproduction,” Hall said.

Hall is superintendent of the Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center operated by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences near Salmon and focused on beef cattle research. The ranch maintains a herd of nearly 400 cows on more than 1,000 acres at Carmen along the Salmon River.

“The primary focus of this group is to increase reproductive efficiency in beef cattle but also to promote and increase the use of artificial insemination in beef cattle,” Hall said.

About three-quarters of the conference is geared to beef operations that use artificial insemination or natural service in their breeding programs. “A lot of what we talk about is the basic reproductive biology of cattle as well as those factors such as nutrition, handling, diseases and genetics that influence reproductive efficiency in cattle,” Hall said.

The group promotes artificial insemination as an asset because it provides access to proven sires that have thousands of calves that can be assessed for their genetic merits, Hall said.

“So through artificial insemination we capture superior genetics that we couldn’t afford to if we had to buy the animal itself,” Hall said. Another advantage, and its most popular aspect among cattle producers, is that it allows producers to breed heifers with bulls that produce smaller calves, easing the stress of first-time births.

Another technology, estrus synchronization, increases the reproductive efficiency of the herd, Hall said. “We end up getting cows that may not be cycling to cycle and shift them to the front end of the calving season so that calves are older and weigh more at weaning time, and therefore are of greater value,” Hall said.

Producers will find that one of the greatest values of attending the conference, Hall said, is the opportunity to spend time individually with top experts before or after their presentations.

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