UF/IFAS Extension offers ‘hands on, holistic’ approach to science of cattle reproduction
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
The goal of any cow-calf operation is fairly straightforward: produce more cattle more efficiently. However, the science of animal reproduction — which includes nutrition, genetics and other health indicators — can be a little less clear-cut.
To help those in the cattle industry better understand reproductive science and incorporate new techniques into their businesses, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension offers annual reproductive management schools for south, central and northeast Florida, said Bridget Stice, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County.
Stice is the chair of the South Florida Beef-Forage Group’s reproductive school, which will be held Nov. 15 to 17 at Longino Ranch in Sidell, Florida.
“Since 2012, 68 producers have participated in the south Florida reproductive school, representing approximately 61,856 head of cattle on approximately 525,685 acres in the southeastern U.S. and Central America,” said Stice.
Rick Hartman, who manages a cow-calf operation in Okeechobee County, attended the south Florida school a few years ago and is returning this year to brush up on his techniques.
“Reproductive management caught my interest because I wanted to know the reproductive tract better, and I was hoping to become more proficient in pregnancy testing,” Hartman said.
Participants like Hartman can also expect to learn more than how to detect pregnancy and assist in a difficult delivery, said Jonael Bosques-Mendez, director of UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County and one of the school’s organizers.
“The UF/IFAS reproductive schools emphasize hands on, holistic learning,” said Bosques-Mendez. “We offer training for everything that can affect reproduction in our herds, such as body condition, genetics, nutrition and animal behavior.”
For example, a technique developed by Temple Grandin called quiet handling, which creates a calm environment for cattle, can help artificially inseminated cattle conceive, though many aren’t familiar with this approach, said Joe Walter, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County who helps organize the central Florida reproductive school.
Taking these science-based methods back to their operations can help producers more efficiently manage their herds, Bosques-Mendez noted.
“In order for medium and small scale producers to make the most of their resources, they need to be producing more beef on the land that they have,” said Bosques-Mendez. “We want to be able to improve the decision-making process of our producers, especially whether they should keep a cow that is not getting pregnant.”
The cow-calf industry is an important part of Florida’s livestock economy. According to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, cattle and calves marketings — which includes animals sold in Florida and animals originating from and sold in Florida — generated $868 million in cash receipts in 2014, an increase from $653 million in 2013.