What is in this article?:
Helping clients grow herd numbers and genetic returns can increase practice income, whether or not the nation’s herd is expanding.
Using Economics to Convince
“As our producers got more informed about the benefits of developing heifers, we started talking with them about using fixed timed artificial insemination (FTAI), getting more calves earlier in the season and using the right genetics,” Cupps says.
Between cost and improved pregnancy, Cupps says, “Improvements in estrus cycle management make fixed time breeding a no-brainer for heifers and cows.” He adds that in their own cost spreadsheets, FTAI typically costs less than using a bull.
Saving on bull costs is why Roe-Johnson is also seeing some interest in FTAI.
Brown stresses, “Using these protocols, the animal has to come through the chute four times, but for a total amount of time of only about 10 minutes. It’s not the long, complicated process some people think it is. And, you can access the best genetics out there.”
FTAI does demand that clients think further ahead in the schedule. “A producer can’t decide today they want to breed heifers next week,” Cupps says. BCVS starts talking with fall breeding programs about the schedule in July.
“If we can make clients’ lives easier and more convenient, they’re willing to pay a fee for it,” Cupps says.
“This also gets us more involved in other management aspects of the client’s program, such as genetics and nutrition,” Brown explains.
In terms of genetics, more clients ask what bulls they should use. Knowing the cattle and their client’s goals, Cupps and Brown make suggestions. Recommended bulls have a minimum 90 percent accuracy for EPDs in calving ease, weaning weight and yearling weight. As clients use particular bulls, the BCVS folks have more information to use in making future recommendations.
For practices considering these kinds of services, Brown explains, “It has to be convenient for the client. You have to be ready to bring both the equipment and expertise to get it done in a short period of time.” Since facilities are sometimes a challenge, Cupps and Brown carry a portable hydraulic chute with them.
“Across the practice, these are profitable add-on services. Not only are they profitable for us, but we’re seeing a definite improvement in client herds and less need by them for the fire engine kinds of services,” Brown says.
Referring to the aforementioned study, White says, “In addition to benefits to the practice, previous work illustrates that veterinary involvement in the herd records program and management can be financially beneficial to the client. This synergistic relationship between the practice and the client can lead to positive client relations and long-term success.”
Incidentally, Roe-Johnson often introduces ultrasound to clients by offering it for the same price as palpating a cow—$2 versus $5. If they see the results and want to continue, then they pay the higher price. Similarly, if she’s pregnancy checking, she offers to pelvic-score for free the first time around.
“Once they try it, 80 percent will keep on doing it,” Roe-Johnson says. “If I can give a little on my end, they are usually willing to try it for the first time.”
Unused, older technology fits beneath the same umbrella. Consider breeding soundness examinations (BSE) for bulls.
“Getting a semen sample and looking at it under a microscope is just a small part of it,” Roe-Johnson says. “With the BSE, we try to eliminate bad feet and structural issues, too. We need to do a better job of helping clients understand that a cheap bull is the most expensive animal on the place.”
Though the majority of Roe-Johnson’s clients routinely have bulls examined ahead of breeding season, holdouts remain. She reminds them of the client two years ago who turned out four unexamined bulls with 80 cows and had 80 open cows at the end of breeding season.
Most anyone can effectively ultrasound, pelvic score or conduct a BSE. “It’s how you convey the information,” Roe-Johnson says. “And, it’s how you can work it into the management program of each farm and ranch client. You have to know your clients and their operations.”
Boiling it all down to economics helps, too. Thinking about pregnancy checking, ultrasound and pelvic scores, Roe-Johnson says, “You get to talking with clients about what winter feeder costs are. When you can put a dollar figure on the potential savings or improvements, people want to talk.”