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Synchronization for Natural-Service Breeding Programs

With 92% of beef operations in the United States utilizing solely natural service breeding in the cowherd, the use of reproductive technology is highly underutilized as many associate these programs with artificial insemination (AI). However, natural-service synchronization protocols can be utilized without AI if slightly different steps are implemented. Natural-service synchronization protocols differ in that less injections are utilized because we do not want estrus grouped so tight that bulls cannot cover all the cows. The Using Estrous Synchronization in Natural-Service Breeding Situations factsheet now available describes the benefits of estrous synchronization, how it works with the estrous cycle, which protocols to use and bull considerations for natural-service synchronization.

Three protocols which are cost effective and minimally labor intensive include:

  • 1-Shot Prostaglandin Protocol
  • 7-day CIDR Protocol
  • MGA Protocol (Heifers ONLY)

Why Synchronize the Cowherd?
Similar to synchronization with AI, the benefits associated with natural-service synchronization include increasing the number of females bred during the first 21 days of the breeding season. By frontloading the breeding season and subsequent calving season, there will be better use of labor and resources. Inevitably there will still be some late bred or open cows that will sort themselves off from the herd. However, the economic ramifications realized from synchronizing the breeding season include labor savings during a shorter calving season, more pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed and potential for receiving an increased price per head on sale day due to increased lot uniformity. These are benefits producers should think twice about before passing up potential dollars this year.

Bull Management
Bull management becomes very important when implementing a natural-service synchronization protocol. Factors to consider when selecting bulls for a natural-service synch program include experience of bulls (virgin vs. mature), pasture size and terrain. Mature bulls are better suited for natural-service synchronization protocols because they already have some experience and can service more cows (1:20 and 1:25 bull to cow ratio). All bulls should pass an annual breeding soundness exam, health and body condition evaluation before turn out.

Conclusion
Before a natural-service synchronization protocol is implemented, first determine if ample resources (facilities, labor, and number of bulls) are available. Compliance is vital to the success of these systems. Therefore, evaluate which protocol will work best with the resources that are available and consult herd advisors for assistance if other options need to be considered.

Source: Taylor Grussing, South Dakota State University, iGrow

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