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February 15, 2017
Due to the considerable herd expansion that has occurred over the last three years, forecasters predict that 2017 and 2018 cattle markets will be considerably lower than even the transition that took place during the latter half of 2016. Only time will tell, but cattle producers are pretty resilient, and most have seen this market transition before.
A silver lining to keep in mind about this one is that we are transitioning from all-time record calf prices in 2014-2015. Hopefully, cow-calf producers took advantage of those market conditions to identify areas of opportunity to address as prices soften and are willing to implement measures that can either reduce costs or increase revenues in the event that we do need to buckle down due to choppy markets.
One such area that has potential to add value to a cow-calf operation is the implementation of an artificial insemination (AI) program. This topic is not a new one, but I find very few commercial producers, regardless of size, actually implement AI as a management tool to improve herd performance and revenue generation. The reasons are varied and in many instances ultimately appropriate. However, the sentiment of "I have never done it," or "It looks too hard," oftentimes rules the overall decision-making process and the potential benefits are left untapped.
Depending upon the individual situation, arguably the biggest benefit in utilizing AI is access to superior genetics as AI studs are selected. Electronic databases, available through many of the breeding services suppliers, can be easily sorted based upon a prioritized list of genetic traits that are specific to your operation. Oftentimes, this results in access to AI studs that wouldn't otherwise be available with greater genetic predictably than is available when purchasing younger, relatively unproven natural service sires.
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