Tag Archives: artificial insemination

Another Hot Morning!

Today’s (June 19) chores were frustrating and exhausting – hopefully, i won’t vent too much, but instead methodically record what happened and what decisions to make based on the mishaps.  However, the first of the morning was spent walking in 3 Angus heifers to attach Estrotect patches in preparation for AI (artificial insemination) over the next weeks followed by spraying off 30 gallons of Surmount chemical mix on woody brush at my farm.  Started about 5:30 am.

This late spring I started letting my cows graze the new seeding implemented last fall.  It’s been super, super dry (until today!  already 8/10s of an inch and still gently raining), so using a back fence was not important since the grass wasn’t trying to grow back after grazing because of the heat and dry.

Nevertheless, I’ve been stripping off sections of about 2 days grazing each – no where near what could be considered mob grazing, but i’ve already decided that is a practice which simply won’t work for me.  I had already set up 2 temporary fences of polybraid of about 1/4 mile each.  Anyone who has done this realizes that that 1/4 mile of walking turns into at least a mile by the time the poly is unrolled, then walk back to get posts, then set up posts along the poly and hook the handle into a hot (electrified) lead.

When i arrived this morning, the cows had blasted through both of them!!  I was not a happy camper to say the least.  Thankfully, i had brought along another 1/4 mile roll of poly braid and I pushed the cows sort of back where they belong and i unrolled this tape.  The grass and weeds were tall, so it just sort of laid on top and looked like a fence the cows didn’t want to bother.  Testing the lead, i found that there was no electricity.  Ah ha!  all the polybraids were ‘dead’  and with baby calves running around, it didn’t take long for them to run through with mommas right behind.

But why was the fence dead?

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I know this tree doesn’t look very big in this photo, but it was about 18 inches in diameter where you see here.  But my spinning jenny was not hit and, although, the post was pushed over a bit, it was still strongly in place.

I had spent some time at that very spot repairing some wire and gate just 24 hours before.  Why did the tree not fall while i was there?  Only by the grace of God.  Not only that, but my spinning jenny  was unharmed and the end post was still in place!  Only one gate handle and the top hi-tensile wire was busted.  Easily repaired that.  Plus, the tree fell in such fashion that i didn’t even have to move it or cut it up.  (thank goodness because i didn’t have my chainsaw on this trip).  I simply repaired around it.  It will have to be removed when i have time.

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The daisy wheel wire tightener was the go-to some 20 years ago and still is for many.  There might be 2 or 3 of these left on my farm, along with a couple Hayes tighteners.  When i redesigned and built my new paddock system, i used only Gripples.  They are so easy to use, remove, splice, etc.  Nevertheless, because of the extra wire stored on this tightener, i had enough to splice the broken line with a Gripple.  I don’t carry the proper tool for Daisy wheel in my Gator, so had to pull this pin and unwind by hand, which was  a bit of challenge, but not insurmountable.

But this also is a prime illustration as to why forests, timbers, draws, need managing!  Treehuggers take me to task for removing mature and junk trees.  But without management, trees can become diseased, can’t compete for sunlight and nutrients so they can die and are a major hazard.

Anyway, back to my morning winding up.  Once all was said and done, i’d walked at least 5 miles in tall forage, scratched through dense brush, and crawled in and out of deep ditches to retrieve all my temporary fencing and posts, finishing the morning installing a new rain gauge, checking my replacement heifers, and resetting an end post.

Dragging back to the seed plant, refueling the JD Gator and using forced air spraying out the seed heads from the grill (this must be done to keep the Gator from overheating), unloading the reels of polybraid and a bunch of posts.  I forgot to take water with me and by noon (got home), i had lost 4.2 lbs.  Goodness, that is 1/2 gallon of water sweated out!

This was another reminder of why mob grazing with multiple shifts per day will not fit with my schedule and quality of lifestyle.  It’s just too stinking much work – i sold off the sheep to get away from so much exhausting work.  With tall grass (not complaining), deep ditches, long stretches of temporary fencing, dense brush, and baby calves not trained to electric braid, there are simply too many bugaboos to make this a happy time.  The mob currently has about 20 acres to relax and graze.  It is what it is – i do the best i can.

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Can’t believe i took this blurry photo and, worse, actually posting it here!  But that is a medium sized Gripple which is used on hi-tensile electric fence.  Easy on, easy off.

 

 

Tweaking the Plan

Since the first of the year, i’ve headed to the local YMCA just 10 minutes drive away and working out (walking at least 10,000 steps according to Fitbit and lifting weights) for 2 to 2 1/2 hours each morning.  Our YMCA opens a bit before 5am, so this is a perfect time for me to go.  I’m usually awake anyway and it’s far too cold outside to do anything, plus it’s dark.

Anyway, like the others who come in early to workout, i plug into my phone and listen to something.  I really enjoy listening to audio books through our local library‘s subscription to Hoopla.  Granted, i suspect there is not as many books on offer as a paid subscription like Audiobooks, but Hoopla is included in our library membership.  But, i mix up the books with Youtube of grazing and cattle management experts.  This has included Jim Gerrish, Jaime Elizondo Braum, Johann Zietsman, Doug Peterson, Greg Judy, David Pratt, Allen Williams.

Continuing education is necessary in any endeavour and as margins tighten and disappear in cattle production it becomes critical to discover little ways to squeeze a bit of income out of our chosen career despite outside pressures OR to discover that you must forge a totally different path if this one simply can no longer be financially sustained.

Regardless of one’s age, evaluation of your chosen work needs doing regularly, but having just turned 56, it may be time consider winding down and looking at retirement.  Nevertheless, the older we get, we must discover if what we are doing is the most effective use of our time and energy (which physically wanes).  If the activity is marginally profitable, then what can be done to make it more profitable without increasing labor (labor and feed are huge costs in raising livestock).  Or are we better purposed to volunteer, counsel, or help our children more.

  1. Last year, i used a lot of iron (tractors, rotavator, plough disk, no-till drill) to establish, first, 18 acres of annuals, and second, establish a permanent ley on 50 acres.  The first experiment resulted in quality grazing, but not more grazing as measured in cow days per acre, than my poor quality forage already growing.  So, i don’t plan to incur that cost again, though my soil may have experienced some improvement.  The second experiment was severely hampered by the lack of rain for the seeds to grow.  However, it may have been a blessing, 1) a better kill of the toxic endophyte fescue due to dry and hot weather, and 2) the seeds hopefully did not germ and will come up this spring.  Time will tell on that here in about 3 months.  However, this project was extremely expensive at $175/acre.
  2. Last year, i also had lime spread on the 160 at the rate of 2 tons per acre for a cost of $66/acre.  The addition of lime typically doesn’t show any production increase for a couple years.
  3. Bale feeding was used quite a lot on various parts of my paddocks.  This may very well be the fastest way to build soil health, but it’s expensive (like all inputs) and time consuming to place the bales.
  4. Last year, I also synchronised my cows with hormones and AI’d a good portion of them.  The reason was because i was going to shorten my breeding season once again to 45 days vs 65 days.  This is expensive, but it does seem to help.  However, due to ragweed allergies, i am simply unable to remove the bulls from the pasture on 1 September, so i will change my plan and leave the bulls in for 60 days and simply sell those that do not calve within the 45 day window.  This does not, however, address the fact that i don’t want to calve for 60 days.  Nothing to be done for that.  Allergies rule my schedule in this regard.

So, tweaking my plan for this year will be to:

  1. no mechanical disturbance or seed inputs (including broadcast)
  2. no liming or other fertiliser input purchases (save up to $100/acre)
  3. Utilize bale grazing extensively to increase soil health (microbial activity) and organic matter (improve tilth) (the only down side here is the time spent to set the bales in the paddocks in proper manner in preparation for winter grazing)
  4. eliminate the synchronising and AI costs.  This eliminates the time spent in mustering and sorting the cows 3 times, shots and CIDRS, semen costs, and AI technician expense.  All these costs add up to about $80 per cow.
  5. purchase hay early for possible reduced cost per bale (purchasing in winter tends to drive up cost due to increased demand)  (delivered hay costs from 4 cents to 15 cents per pound depending on quality and demand)
  6. Manage my time to allow ultra high stock density grazing (UHDG) at least part of the year to increase forage diversity, water infiltration, and soil health.  (time is a problem here because of my farm being a 35 minute drive from my home, it is counter productive if this increases labor that would be expensed to cows)

OR:

  1. let go, rent out the land, and sell my cows – no work.  the drawbacks are having to quibble with renters on their lack of care and watching your land erode, grow up in brush, and/or wash away.  Repair and clean up can be costly at the end of the renting period.

So, should i continue ranching – and realistically, i plan to – giving it up unless necessary is not really a consideration, although it should be,  then i need to decide whether to reduce the number of cows to what my pastures can sustain during the non growing season (winter  – about 5 months and summer heat – about 1 month), OR increase cow numbers to manage the growing season flush and buy in enough hay to feed them during the winter.  Hay purchase and feeding will also improve the soil, so there is added value to that.

No one else can make this decision, although there are a lot of suggestions and i really appreciate all the expert and seasoned ranchers sharing their experiences – these have guided me .

Just Breathe,

tauna

 

 

CIDRs In, CIDRs Out, then AI

Big ranch outfits often do timed AI, but we’ve never done this, so quite the experiment for us.  There is a lot of time and cattle handling involved which translates, of course, to more labor costs.  Time will tell if all this is really worth it.  We have hired a professional AI technicial to insert the CIDRS and do the AI (artificial insemination).

18 August – Mustered the cows and replacements heifers for CIDR placement to begin at 7am along with a Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) vaccination.  Doug, the technician had a flat tire so was running about 30 minutes late.  Not a problem.  The cows sorted nicely and went through the chute with no problems.  We managed a pace of 67 cows per hour for a total of 3 1/2 hours from start of CIDR insertion to being finished.  Sorting of course, was started an hour earlier.  Weather was perfectly cloudy, cool, with rain starting after we finished!.

Allen was catching, Pat gave the shot, Doug AI'd with RIck preparing the straw and loading the AI gun. This was crucial in expediting the whole process.
Allen was catching, Pat gave the shot, Doug AI’d with RIck preparing the straw and loading the AI gun. This was crucial in expediting the whole process.  Dallas brought the cows quietly into the race.  I was sorting the cows from the calves (well, except for taking this photo!)

25 August – Mustered the cows and replacements heifers in again at 4:30 removal of the CIDRS in the cows which also received the lutalyse shot\.  Sorted off the replacement heifers and held in corral overnight.  A little warm starting here in the afternoon, but not too bad.  about 82F, but began to cool off quickly.  We were finished by 7:30p.

26 August – Removal of CIDRS in heifers at 7am. Also received a shot of lutalyse. Had a couple of calves to doctor, then let the whole mob down into the timber.

27 August – 6pm – went to muster the cows into the small lot by corral.  RIck had already unrolled 4 bales of good hay, but the cows had found their way out of the timber.  Took until 7:30 to get them in!  Note to self:  Leave the cows in the small lot with high quality hay rather than turning them out and having difficulty getting them back in.  My thoughts are that they are really tired of getting poked and prodded, so were quite reluctant to move back towards the corral and with all the hormones raging at this point, they are pretty distracted.

Doug Tenhouse, our AI technician is inserting the AI syring through the cervix and plunging the semen into the uterus.
Doug Tenhouse, our AI technician is inserting the AI syringe through the cervix and plunging the semen into the uterus.  This cow was being less than cooperative – normally, they stand up – there is no pain.

We finished about 12;30 pm and had AI’d 210 animals in five hours.  If I get 55% of the cows bred to Red Eddard, that’d be industry standard.  As expensive as this whole process is, I hope for better – only time will tell. The cows have all been inseminated with Red Eddard, a red Aberdeen Angus that was collected at Cogent and has been sold by Dunlouise Angus to another farmer.

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Four straws of Red Eddard were left over since there were a few cows that, for various reason, didn’t warrant the investment of being inseminated with expensive semen. These were put in Pat’s semen tank where we found we also had leftover Black Angus and Charolais semen from when we used to AI some 20 years ago. Maybe we’ll get it all used next year.

28 August – morning start at 7am with the cows; the heifers were held until last so that the timing is right for best chance of successful AI and conception for each group.  Cows should be AI’d 60-66 hours after CIDR removal and heifers about 54-60 hours.  Both receiving a second Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) shot.  A bit late getting started.  Cows were, not surprisingly, reluctant to go into the corral, but at last they made it.  We started about 7:30 am again.  Everything went very well today, however, and we finished about 12:30pm.

Potential recip (recipient) cows. If all goes as hoped, 10 of these will become proud surrogate mommas of native Aberdeen Angus calves.
Potential recip (recipient) cows. If all goes as hoped, 10 of these will become proud surrogate mommas of native Aberdeen Angus calves.

I made my final selection of cows to use for embryo transplant work

and only ended up with 17 for 10 embryos.  Hopefully, enough cows will be in standing heat this coming week and none fall out for other reasons, so that each of 10 embryos will have a new home inside a momma’s womb.  AND remain viable.

ET cows were hauled home and now I spend time each day, all day checking for standing heat and writing down the time and the cow’s ear tag number.  All cows will be hauled to Trans-Ova in Chillicothe, MO on the 4th of September for ET.  HOPE, HOPE, HOPE i get some live calves out of those embryos.  It’s SO expensive.

Dallas and I dewormed the sheep in the late afternoon – had just done it 20 days ago, but sheep were dying!  I found out that the previous owner of these sheep had already put his own flock on an 18 day deworming schedule.  Add this to the growing list of reasons why i’m selling off the sheep – more work, more expense, more loss.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Red Eddard - a native born Scottish Aberdeen Angus bred by Dunlouise Angus, Kingston Farms, Forfar, Angus County, Scotland
Red Eddard – a native born Scottish Aberdeen Angus bred by Dunlouise Angus, Kingston Farms, Forfar, Angus County, Scotland