I would like to thank Dr. Bob Hough and the WLJ for such an excellent and broadly covered topic on the front cover of the Feb. 17, 2020 WLJ issue. The article was “Bull buying season is in full swing.” It is good advice that the typical, commercial cattleman should hear and heed.
I decided to follow that type of guidance about 14 years ago at my Arizona ranch in the roughed Superstition Mountains (after I had struggled for about 30 years). I felt that it was good, but it didn’t avoid having to bring in outside bulls and keep them alive. Thus, I experimented with artificial insemination (AI) to maybe raise my own bulls, in my country.
To my surprise, my first try with only 50 cows turned out to yield 23 AI calves. Thus, I decided I could raise my own superior replacement heifers. I now AI 95 percent of all my cows and heifers and then turn them in to the live bulls. I only need half the number of bulls, and I went to a limited breeding season so I only need the bulls with the cows in the least roughed pasture.
That greatly accelerated the transition to a better herd. I also started DNA testing possible replacement heifers which also accelerated my progress. I now retain ownership of all calves (except replacement heifers) through the feedlot and get individual carcass data back. That way I can eliminate the cows that produce the poorest calves, again accelerating my improvement.
Last year’s 170 calves in the feedlot graded 50 percent Prime and 95 percent either Prime or Certified Angus Beef-qualified (Premium Choice). I now keep my superior bulls in a little tin can in my dewar and all my cows are born and raised on the ranch, thus well-acclimated to the environment.
P.S. Ranchers tell me that they can’t do AI on their ranches because they don’t have the proper handling facilities. I ask if they have a squeeze chute and some way to direct the cows into it. If they say yes, I tell them that they can do AI.
Chuck Backus, Gilbert, AZ