Attendance at the recent Central New York Beef Producers (CNYBP) workshop-hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Schoharie and Otsego Counties — exceeded expectations, with a full house.
Featured speakers, Cornell University Beef Specialist Dr. Mike Baker and Jerry Emrick, Northeast Beef Specialist with Select Sire Power discussed estrus synchronization, bull scoring, artificial insemination (A.I.) and Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs).
Estrous synchronization, which involves manipulating the cow’s estrous (heat) cycle so she and her female herd mates can be bred at approximately the same time, was first to be discussed by Emrick.
“Why should I A.I. and synchronize my cattle?” Emrick asked. “What is your future market? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to tighten calving intervals? Do you want to wean heavier calves? There are things you want to keep in mind when thinking about a synchronization and A.I. program.”
Emrick said one reason to synchronize is to get a high rate of pregnancies in the first week of breeding season, resulting in increased pregnancy rates and an increased number of heat cycles during that breeding season. Synchronization also helps to induce anestrous cows — open cows that aren’t cycling normally — to begin a normal cycle.
He showed statistics proving that cows bred by synchronization doubled in numbers compared to cows not using synchronization methods.
Another benefit is that cows bred at similar dates may be weaned together and calves can be shipped together instead of having to be shipped on several trips.
It also creates a longer postpartum interval, giving the cows a longer period of time to gain weight after weaning and before getting ready for their next calf.
Calves born earlier in the season have extra time to add on pounds before going to market. At a weight gain of 2-3 pounds per/day, multiplied by about 14 days, calves will bring about an extra $200 apiece.
Emrick said synchronization also impacts cow productivity. Research shows that heifers born earlier are more likely to conceive earlier themselves, once they become breeding age, in their first breeding season.
“By the time you hit them next year as yearlings they are just a little bit farther ahead than heifers born later in the season.”
Synchronization allows breeding schedules to be easier for producers working off farm and the economic benefits are enormous when all things are considered, including time and labor saved by avoiding natural heat detection and being able to watch for calves during scheduled due dates.
Several estrus synchronization protocols were discussed by Emrick, including Select Sync, which is highly recommended. “Eazi-Breed CIDR” is also recommended for higher conception rates.
Accessing superior genetics through A.I. is another way to boost your program.
What traits are important to you? Are you looking for more muscle on your calves? What direction do you want to take your program in?
More predictable performance is one reason to use A. I.
“Proven A.I. genetics allows you to utilize sires with proven performance,” Emrick said.
Dr. Mike Baker continued the program with an in depth discussion about bull scoring and Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs).
Baker spoke about a beef calf pool that was started in 2015 by the CNY BP, which was less than successful.
“If we’re going to make this pool successful, one of the things we need to do is to get our genetics a little more uniform — also get our calving seasons a little bit closer,” Baker explained. “Reproduction is at the top of the list.”
In addition to other reasons, realizing that first calf heifers and mature cows will probably require different sires, helps to understand why A.I. is a good option when selecting sires.
“Expected Progeny Differences has been probably the biggest thing in genetics that has made improvements, even bigger than genomics,” said Baker. “Genomics is coming, but still doesn’t equal the ability to predict performance and reduce risk.”
Baker emphasized that genetic selection is a biological system. “We’re never going to get it down 100 percent. What we are trying to do is reduce the risk of making the wrong decision or increase the chance of making the right decision. EPDs have been a huge tool to help you do that.”
Value indexes take EPD traits and add value to them then put them in indexes by breed to help producers understand them. Marker Assistance Selection Genomics adds value to EPDs. “Genomics are not going to replace EPDs; all they are doing is adding value to them. It’s important to understand that other than removing cattle that have genetic deformities, Genomics only adds to the value of EPDs.”
EPDs are used to make selection and breeding decisions by measuring the expected differences and traits between the progeny of two bulls of the same breed and predicting the performance of resulting calves compared to other calves of the same breed. “Reading EDPs is often confusing because it involves reading, interpreting, and understanding the various numbers and abbreviations,” said program coordinator CCE Agricultural Educator, Bill Gibson. “It is a method that helps breeders determine whether a particular bull, cow, or heifer has the makeup to produce calves that will improve the genetic quality of a breeding herd or quality of meat to market.”
Emrick said EPDs are being used to eliminate negative environmental influences on calves and fulfill production goals.
Baker walked attendees through bull scores, explaining numbers and abbreviations and how to apply the information to producer’s specific programs and desires and pointed out that the information and statistics provided in a sire catalog is not the information you will find in a bull sale catalog.
Calving ease, weaning weights, body condition scoring at weaning, muscling, carcass traits and other areas of scoring were discussed. Baker presented a job description for bulls complementing existing herd genetics. “You don’t want to single trait select.”
“We need weaning weights to be 500 pounds or above to be in a profitable herd,” Baker advised. “Muscling is a real issue.”
Attendees had an opportunity to examine a sire catalog and make out a worksheet deciphering the information themselves.
Outside of dairy, beef has been identified as the largest farm sector in Central New York and Schoharie-Otsego Cornell Cooperative Extension is attempting to help beef producers through the Central New York Beef Producers program.
“We need more folks to talk with us about the pool concept,” said Gibson. “We will continue to reach out to our region’s producers and, in addition to the pool concept, offer programming, which would in time yield more targeted calving, uniformity in production and ultimately enhanced profitability. We will reconsider our sale location and methodology.”