The famous question, “Where’s the beef.” is easy to answer. A far tougher nut to crack is determining how fertile a cow is and what quality offspring she will produce. This is a critical factor in determining ranch profitability—reproductive issues are the main reason for culling females. While commercial beef bulls undergo detailed reproductive evaluations, cows are often assessed only visually. This apparent disparity is understandable, given that males are viewed as having the greater impact on genetic (i.e., economic) herd improvement. However, it is also true that cows have a larger economic influence on costs, given their year-round feed expenses and their need to produce a marketable calf every year. Adding to this challenge are chronic agricultural labour shortages. All these factors combined make it imperative to introduce affordable automation solutions to ranching activities.

By using remote sensing technology on individual animals, this project team will seek to identify and evaluate location, activity, temperature, and behaviours that determine:

  • Age at puberty;
  • Estrus;
  • Libido; and,
  • A bull’s ability to service cows.

Defining these and other predictive aspects of reproductive efficiency could help avoid allocating costly labour, feed, facility, and land resources to unproductive cattle. The project will evaluate various promising technologies to create alerts warning operators of breeding activity, stress events and pasture use. Digital automation tools and data sets will be merged, creating technology packages that will allow ranchers to make informed decisions on the fertility of cows and heifers, thereby improving productivity, profitability, and sustainability.

CAAIN Contribution
$142,765

Total Project Value
$358,093

Project Contact
Susan Markus
Livestock Research Scientist
Lakeland College
susan.markus@lakelandcollege.ca