How to get started
Alright you have read through Why you should buy from us? and Why AI is the right breeding solution for you, now you have the question, many just like you have had as well. How do I do this, and what do I need to get started?
We have done our best to lay out the common steps you will need to accomplish to have a successful breeding season using AI. Also, as time goes by you will find what works best for you to adjust but there. We are not trying to say this is all you need but there are some key milestones you’re going to need to accomplish in-order to have a successful breeding outcome.
Find a Technician or Veterinarian
A technician is someone that you can either bring your cows to or will come out to your farm to do the breeding. This is a key component of getting started, and depending on how they assist you will determine your next steps. There are a lot of ways to search for a tech and some larger companies you can reach out to. We have listed a few of the larger companies you can reach out to. If that does not work, we suggest you reach out to some of the larger dairy farmers in the area.
In today’s world many dairy farmers have turned to AI and they might be able to help you or point you in the right direction. The costs will vary greatly depending on how far you are from a tech and the time and setup you have to make the process easier. Here are a few questions you are going to want to discuss with the techs to make sure you know what is expected of you and will help as you get set up.
- What days are you available for breeding?
- Can I call you to come out if one of my cows comes into heat, or do I need to schedule my breeding? If they are not available “on-call,” syncing your cattle may be the best option.
- If I choose to synchronize my cattle, will you assist with that process, and what syncing schedules do you use? Referring to the “what is AI” article for information on these.
- Do you have a tank I can store my semen in, and if so, can I have the straws shipped to you? If not, we have a few suggestions to help with this (Please see below).
- Can you come out to view my setup and make any suggestions to reduce herd stress and make the process go smooth? Having the technician do a farm visit is well worth your time and allows them the time to get acquainted with your setup.
- What do you require of me during the breeding?
- Can you assist with doing pregnancy checks after breeding, or recommend someone who can? If the answer is no, most times your vet will assist with this. However, it can be nice to use one service for all your breeding needs. There are also blood pregnancy test companies as well to pregnancy test your cows.
Need Help Finding an Artificial Insemination Technician? Click Here for a List of Companies Across the USA.
The common practice is for the technician to come out to your house for service. If you are bringing them to a facility you will need to trailer the cattle up and haul them in. If they are coming to your farm, there are a few things that you will need to get setup. These pieces will not only make you technician more comfortable with handling your cattle, but will reduce stress on the animals and you. A Stressed-out animal will have a reduced percentage of success, and will also create barriers for doing it in the future. Any steps you can take now will create more success and hopefully make you feel good about doing it again.
- You will need a way to sort out your cattle to get the animals in a smaller more manageable area. This could be something as simple as a few free-standing panels strategically placed in the paddock. It is important to keep a water source in this area especially if they will be there for more than a few hours.
- You will want some way to catch the animal and restrain them while the technician services your cow. There are a lot of options and a wide variety of cost. If you are starting out, we suggest at a minimum a few free-standing panels that can be positioned to hold the cow and a head gate to catch the animal. Headgates can be costly, if your females are docile and halter broken you can choose to pin them between a few panels and use the halter to hold them. This is where having the technician come out and discuss options with you could tell you what you need to get started. We also recommend reaching out to other Highland farmers you know are using artificial insemination on their cattle. Sometimes, they will let you do a farm visit or send pictures of their setup. This can be helpful, too.
- Record keeping is an important part of farming, which is often missed. Whether you are using your smart phone on an app or going old school and writing things down, make sure you have a way to track what cow was bred with what bull. If you are breeding a lot of animals at once, it can be confusing as you are running them through the chute. So, tracking as you go will help remember what you did later.
- The technician will more than likely work out of their vehicle to prepare the semen. There are some steps they need to do to get ready (heating the semen up and loading the gun), so you will want to have a location near the breeding area where they can drive up to. This should be within a short waking distance to the breeding location. They always like to keep their car in the shade, too. Many farmers are breeding for a spring calves, which means your technician is going to be working in the hotter days of Summer. Most technicians have requirements to clean their boots off between farms and will usually want to wash up before and afterward. So, having a fresh water supply handy for them will make their life easier. They will be using throw away supplies, so have a trash receptacle handy. too.
Many farmers today are going the route to purchase a tank and store the semen at their farm. There are some advantages to this. You have the semen available when catching a cow in heat, and you can buy as needed. However, owning a tank can be expensive to buy and you will need to keep it full of liquid nitrogen and have it filled on a regular basis. If you do choose to buy a tank, your technician should be able to help you with getting it filled or know where to go for this.
For first time breeders using artificial insemination, we recommend seeing if the technician can help with storing it for you. You can have the semen shipped directly to their office, and they are trained in handling the straws as well.
Order and Shipping
- Shipping – When buying from us your semen will come in a small shipper that has enough nitrogen that will last about 5-7 days. Whether you are having the semen shipped to you or your technician, you are going to want to have the straws placed in a larger storage container as soon as you can. The shipper will have information and a shipping label for returning to us.
- When you use our store the website will walk you through the process of ordering just like any other on-line ordering site.
How to get ready for breeding
If you are trying to catch your females in heat during their natural cycle, we have a few suggestions. Using a heat detection patch will let you know if a cow has been ridden and is in standing heat. Many wise farmers and technicians will say the best time to tell if a cow is in heat is in the morning when you wake them up just stand in the field for about 30 minutes to see if any riding is going on. If your technician is coming out to breed naturally when you see them in heat, we recommend calling them as soon you see it. This allows you time to get setup and the technician to plan their day.
If you are planning to take a lot of the guess work out, and want to breed them on a specific time then syncing is the way for you. It does cost a little more however, only having the technician come to your farm minimal times may pay weigh out on a cost basis. There are a few links we provide on how to do this. Some technicians will do the whole process for you, which requires them to come to your farm a few times and some will just come out to breed. Be sure to ask your technician, how they can assist you here to. They may recommend you work with your veterinarian on estrus synchronization as well. We have included some links below that lay out some different synchronization schedules and how the process works.
“B” Day The day of breeding
The day you decide to breed your cows’ weather natural heat detection or syncing is an important day. You will want to do everything you can to reduce stress on your fold.
You will also want to have the animals sorted out and ready for when the tech arrives. Many tech are not paid by the hour so the quicker you can get them in and out will make them want to work with you more in the future.
After the tech leaves you should be able to put your cows back out together before you had them sorted out. You will want to watch for any injury in the future
If the AI did not take and synced your female she will typically come back into heat in 7 – 10 days. You may want to watch for this on an opportunity to breed her again.
There is a couple schools of thought on “preg” testing. You can do a blood test, palp test, or have an ultrasound done. Each has its positives and negatives but we recommend having your cows preg tested to know if they AI took. That way you may be able to try again in the near future if it didn’t.
is just as it sounds the tech or vet comes out to your farm and takes a blood sample (usually from below the tail) and sends it in for testing. This can only be done 30 days after breeding.
is when a tech or vet reaches inside your female and feels for a calve. You typically need to wait longer for this to take place and results are the least accurate
The vet comes out and will do an ultrasound on your female to look for a fetus. You will get results right away however you will need to wait longer than the blood test to know for sure. This sounds expensive however you may be surprised on the cost and we recommend asking your vet for these fees.