you could increase the likelihood your beef herd’s average weaning weight would quickly increase as a result of the genetic selection decisions you made, would you do it?
The use of artificial insemination (AI) has been widespread in the dairy industry for decades and is now standard practice for progressive dairies. Thanks to AI, rapid advancements in the national dairy herd’s genetic potential for milk production, in combination with improved nutrition, have resulted in an increase in average milk production from 9,434 lbs. per cow per year in 1969 to 20,576 lbs. in 2009.1
Despite the lessons to be learned from the dairy industry about the value of AI, AI is used in just 7.1% of the nation’s beef herd.2 Why has the beef industry been so much slower to adopt this beneficial practice? Vastly different housing and husbandry practices are one reason. Particularly in the west, U.S. cow-calf beef herds use extensive managements systems with large numbers of animals run on large acreage with minimal year-round labor. This management system and traditional production cycles are not easily compatible with AI; most cow-calf producers therefore use natural service via multiple bulls per herd instead.