Precision ranching: remote assessment of bull activity under range conditions to improve pregnancy rate

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $170,600
Commodity: Beef Cattle
Organization: Lakeland College
Investigator: Susan Markus

Technological advancements make the tracking of cattle location and activity more feasible and offer potential for improving livestock management.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Beef cowherd open rate typically average <7% with such rates often attributed to identifying reproductively fit individuals through use of breeding soundness examinations (BSE), appropriate health protocols, plus nutrient supplementation where needed. However, BSE of bulls lack accurate measures of libido and proficiency in mounting females.

New remote sensing technology (i.e. cameras, pedometers, smart tags), also capable of capturing individual animal identity, movement, activity budgets and GPS tracking, could potentially aid in automating bull selection. Much like fitness and health assessment on athletes, innovative technology can objectively determine superior phenotypes for breeding replacements. Long wait times to confirm parentage by matching offspring to sires using DNA analyses means valuable time and resources are used up as unproductive bulls in multi-sire mating groups go unidentified prior to or early in the breeding season.

This research will identify bull location and intervene to improve mating opportunities. The main objective is the application of the CERES tag real-time location and activity to monitor the field distribution of bulls and cows during a rangeland breeding season to improve animal inventory retention.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Technological advancements make the tracking of cattle location and activity more feasible and offer potential for improving livestock management. Additional benefits include its ability to provide detailed data on individual animal behaviour, including their habitat preferences and activity.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Findings will be shared with students at Lakeland College. Traditional print will be used in popular producer publications. Articles, presentations, and social media will also be used to disseminate findings.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

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