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Breeder's Choice

Registered Virgin Heifers Ready for AI'ing
Registered Virgin Heifers Ready for AI'ing

It's April and with these April showers/snowstorms brings the beginning of breeding season at Scott Angus Cattle. We completed our first embryo transfer group (1st of six) on April 2nd...because there's NO WAY we'd schedule an "ET" date on April Fools....that's just asking for disaster. The next couple of days we will be breeding our registered virgin heifers and the following week our commercial virgin heifers. For those of you who maybe aren't super close to the registered cattle game -- this means we are intensely determining the future of our herd this week. How so? The virgin heifer group is our up-and-coming 'bread and butter'. Each pretty young lady has some great attributes to contribute as a new momma i.e. milking capability, fertility, body and foot structure, marbling, weight gains, etc. These attributes and more are displayed in her EPDs (Expected Progeny Difference) on the American Angus Association website. Do the calculated EPDs always match the actual physique and qualities of the heifer? No. So it's our job as registered breeders to use our best judgement to find which studly herd sire will match best with her to create what we will think be the highest quality progeny. As mentioned earlier, the breeder's choice decides the future of their herd. No pressure right?

Within Scott Angus Cattle, we currently have our own cows between my brother, myself/AJ, and my parents. This gives us the freedom to chose for our own herd what we will breed for. It's been fun to see the differences each of us have used. We only have one semen tank so there is some restrictions on how many different bulls we can include in a year's breeding...but there's still variations on tastes, some leaps of faith on a maybe not proven new bull, and outcross ideas that get the side-eye at times.

Tricks of the Trade: I promised "tips and tricks" in my introduction so I better follow through! We learned this a while back from a friend to implant the Cidr with a bolus gun! A simple trick that has saved so much time for us. You can see the pictures above of our setup and my daughter, Ryn, helping "Grandma Kelly" out after school. Comment below if you'd like more information on how we adjust the bolus gun to be used with the Cidr.

Methods of Madness: This year we are trying a new approach in a way. Statistics have shown that putting in fresh flushed embryos has significantly increased conception rates...upwards of 70%! We are currently around the 55% conception rate and have been looking for ways to improve this. So as you can probably guess, we are trying out the fresh flush approach this year with as many of our ET groups as we can. The main obstacle with this is TIMING with the donor cows and SCHEDULING with all the parties involved -- embryologist, semen shipments, IVF reproduction centers, man-power at home to setup the groups, etc. This process really is an artform and Kelly Scott (Mom) is the maestro! One thing we will NOT be doing this year is grabbing 'over-achievers' from a later group and bumping them up to a earlier breeding group just because they showed a natural heat. We tried this on about 20 cows last year (i.e. a Group 3 cow was showing heat during Group 1's breeding window, and we put her in with Group 1's embryo transfer date). The results were disappointing since maybe two of these cows stuck with their first embryo...and I'm being modest with two. Moral of the story -- don't push the '60 days after calving' rule of thumb.

Something New: Last year we decided to get more techy in our heat checking game. We had heard from a neighboring registered breeder that they use these tags that have a smart chip in them that connects to their phone and tells them down to the minute when the cow came into heat. We did a little research into this and decided to jump on a similar electronic method that uses a large patch which you adhere to the animal's hair/hide and connects to an app on your phone (HeatSieker). We only used it on the registered animals we were planning to A.I. and then for second heats on registered virgin heifers. Definitely NOT first heats on virgins....yikes, those things would have been dinging us a million times in an hour! haha! HeatSieker is a fairly new company and admittedly still has some bugs to work out but they worked very hard to meet our satisfaction and even sent over new patches and new glue at no charge when over HALF of our patches slipped off in our first little gynae-pig group. After some trial and error with these patches, we found what worked best with our cattle's hides and were successful in tracking heats on the registered herd....from the comfort of our homes!

If you have any questions on our breeding program, feel free to ask in the comments below or contact me directly through our website's contact form. Also, remember to follow us on Facebook or Instagram as we share lots of day to day there as well as notifications for future blog releases!

Well, until next blog, here's to content comfortable cattle!

Abby Ropers with Scott Angus Cattle

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