Researchers with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) have pioneered a new protocol for increasing pregnancy rates in beef cattle, which is expected to lead to higher production efficiency and cost and time savings for farmers nationwide.

Working closely with the industry, animal scientist Mike Day and his team developed a fixed-time artificial insemination (AI) protocol - known as "5-day CO-Synch + CIDR" - that better synchronizes a cow's estrus (heat) cycle so that AI can be administered when cows are at their maximum fertility.

Getting the highest possible number of cows pregnant at the same time is crucial for the profitability and efficiency of the beef cattle industry, which in Ohio alone has an annual value of $1.3 billion.

"We have been working on this protocol during the past six years, modifying what has been done in the field in the past," Day says. "We managed to shorten the duration of standard estrus synchronization programs to increase the opportunity for cows to be at optimum fertility when AI is done."

Now a recommended practice within the cattle industry nationwide, this protocol has resulted in 68% of the animals getting pregnant within one day - a 17.5% increase compared to current industry standards. It has been tested on more than 1,700 cows in Virginia, Indiana and Ohio, including at OARDC's Eastern and Jackson agricultural research stations and at the Ohio State University (OSU) Beef Center in Columbus.

"Our goal is to increase the sustainability of beef production by providing producers with effective technology that will help them increase reproductive efficiency and take advantage of the genetic resources available through artificial insemination to produce value-added cattle," Day says.

The "5-day CO-Synch + CIDR" protocol can lead to significant improvements to current cattle operations. For example, if the protocol were implemented with just 10% of Ohio's 500,000 beef and dairy cows, the total economic benefit for the state would easily surpass $5 million, including:

-$400,000 saved in overhead costs as a result of cows becoming pregnant 21 days earlier.

-$500,000 saved in costs associated with the development of replacement cows due to low fertility rates.

-More than $4 million in multiplier effect from savings and increased production.

-Innovations like this are welcome news for the beef industry.

"Several existing synchronization protocols that are used today by the beef industry, not only nationally but globally, were initiated through research efforts with OARDC," says Brian House, beef program manager with Select Sires Inc., a cattle genetics company based in Plain City, OH. "The results of this research benefit thousands of beef producers, allowing them to be more profitable with their operations."
OARDC is the research arm of OSU's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.