Artificial Insemination Sires and Online Dating

| 1/14/2019 11:56:00 AM


“Lincoln”, a Rotokawa 243 son bred and owned by Spas Farm in Ashville, NY. He represents an ideal grass sire.  

James Coffelt, owner of Ohio Land and Cattle, believes that breeding is simple. “Use the absolute best bulls you can find, and cull the heck out of the cows!” Artificial insemination (AI) is an increasingly popular way for beef producers to access “the best bulls.” However, AI sire selection should involve much more than just flipping through a catalog in search of the best EPDs. Ranchers sometimes don’t exercise the same diligence when choosing semen as they do when buying a live bull.

I have been experimenting with online dating lately, and I see a lot of parallels between that and picking AI sires. A dating website is a good “catalog” to start with, where you can search through profiles, find someone who looks interesting, and chat with them electronically. However, you won’t have any real idea whether or not this person is a good match for you until your first date. You can’t observe their mannerisms or their interaction with you and others over the Internet. Often they’re much different from what you expected, either for better or worse. 

AI sire selection to me should be the same way: start with the catalog, but don’t commit to using a sire without meeting him in real life. If you’re unable to visit the bull, try to contact the person who owns or takes care of him every day. A sire catalog will tell you nothing about the following traits, all of which must be part of your selection criteria if you ever want to breed up from “average” cattle to “excellent” cattle.

Hormonal Health

Endocrine function is the root of every economically important trait in livestock, including but not limited to feed efficiency, disease resistance and fertility. According to Gearld Fry and James Drayson, visually observable haircoat and testicle characteristics reveal all you need to know about a bull’s hormonal status. You can’t conduct any inspection of these traits using a catalog picture. (For more information, contact Acres USA for Fry’s and Drayson’s books.) It’s also impossible to evaluate libido, breeding behavior and temperament in a bull that is kept penned up at a stud farm. Therefore, I recommend looking for sires that are turned out with a real cowherd. If a bull is not a tireless and efficient breeder, especially at a young age, hormonal status is likely subpar. The status-quo folks are so obsessed with selection for gain alone that they have bred the endocrine system right out of cattle. You don’t want to perpetuate this genetic inferiority in your calves.

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