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Hands-On School Covers AI, Herd Management
Beef producers can learn practical skills and herd-management at short courses offered by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Since the 1970s, this statewide educational agency has worked in conjunction with commercial artificial insemination (AI) companies to offer hands-on instruction in AIing and pregnancy checking of cows. Classroom lectures cover herd management.
Learning to manage a herd for optimal fertility and mastering the skills of AI and preg checking give participants greater effectiveness and flexibility in accomplishing herd work.
“Most of our students are farmers and ranchers who want to learn how to AI and how to perform pregnancy determination on their own cattle,” says Ron Gill, Texas A&M Extension livestock specialist. “They want to be able to do this work at home.”
Students learn, too, to discern those situations relating to AI and preg checking where working in cooperation with their veterinarian is the best course of action.
Depending on their location, some participants report difficulty in finding and scheduling a vet who can pregnancy test and provide on-farm service. By learning to preg check, participants are better able to manage an annual program of determining nonpregnant cows and culling them from the herd. This is one of the most effective ways to improve herd fertility and, thus, to increase overall productivity.
At the end of the four-day course, a final exam measures proficiency levels of participants. Students are, typically, able to successfully deposit semen in a cow’s uterus and can also determine whether cows are bred and what trimester of pregnancy they’re in.
“In our test of determining pregnancy, students must achieve a score of 80% or higher to receive a certificate of course completion,” says Gill. “Courses are not designed to make students extremely proficient at AI or palpation. They just can’t achieve that in four days. Rather, courses teach the basics.”
Besides covering general management related to achieving optimal herd fertility, classroom instruction covers management of the estrus cycle, particularly relating to AI. Topics include synchronization, heat detection, detection aids, timed AI, and cattle handling.
“We also teach students how to work with their veterinarians in setting up a health-management program and, in general, how to develop a good working relationship with their veterinarians,” he says.
From February through September, Texas A&M AgriLife sponsors eight four-day schools at College Station, Texas. Attendance at each school typically runs from 15 to 25 students.
“The AI companies teach the AI portion of the curriculum, and Extension covers the cow-herd management and pregnancy-determination curriculum,” says Gill.
Cost for the AI course is $400 per participant. If you’re interested in taking both the AI and pregnancy-determination courses concurrently, the fee is $700. Previous or concurrent AI training is required for instruction in preg checking.