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Comparing AI young sires to herd bulls.

Dairy Pipeline: February 1996

by Bennet Cassell
Extension Dairy Scientist
Genetics and Management
Virginia Tech

Farmers seeking ways to cut costs and reduce labor this winter may be tempted to let a bull take over heat detection and genetic improvement programs in their herds. Estimating the COSTS of bull breeding versus AI can be controversial. One difference between the two systems which CAN be measured is the cash return from genetically superior replacements when AI is used. I suggest comparing AI young sires with herd bulls for two reasons. First, AI young sires are a good buy. Second, comparisons of genetic merit should be made between two groups of bulls that were available to the farmer at the same time. In July 1995, the average MFP$ of first evaluation AI young sires (Holstein) was $97. The average MFP$ of first evaluation natural service bulls was $22. That $75 dollar difference would be expressed in each lactation and half of it would be transmitted to offspring as well. After accounting for feed costs, use of ME records in MFP$ calculations, and an expected productive life of about 27 months for Holsteins, we can expect average daughters of AI young sires to return about $125 more lifetime income over feed cost than average daughters of herd bulls born at the same time. If high-ranking, proven AI bulls are used, the difference in lifetime income over feed cost between AI and bull breeding would be even greater. Farmers cannot change their minds about the parents of replacement heifers after matings are made. The opportunity to make that $125 of extra lifetime income exists only when the dam is bred. Genetic improvement is a one-time expense that produces permanent benefits for the life of a replacement heifer and her descendants. Margins in dairying today are too narrow to sacrifice efficiency of the primary income generator, the cow, for convenience or possible short term savings.

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