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Improving Heifer Productivity by Integrating FTAI into Commercial Cow Enterprises

A Producer Demonstration Site in Esperence, WA, has demonstrated that heifer productivity can be improved by implementing fixed-time AI (FTAI) and adopting best practice reproduction management.

Project start date: 30 May 2017
Project end date: 27 May 2021
Publication date: 16 August 2021
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grass-fed Cattle
Relevant regions: National, Cold wet, Mediterranean, Sub-tropical moist, Temperate, Temperate sub-humid
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This Producer Demonstration Site (PDS), conducted in the Esperance region of WA, was designed to demonstrate that heifer productivity could be improved by implementing fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) and adopting best practice reproduction management. It was recognised that heifers that calve early within their scheduled calving season and with less need for calving assistance would be more likely to wean more and heavier calves and have improved rebreeding outcomes when re-joined for their second mating and beyond. It was also recognised that oestrus synchronisation and FTAI could provide access to bulls with both higher accuracy and superior Breedplan Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for calving ease, shortened gestation lengths and growth compared to the EBVs of most bulls traditionally sourced within the area from sales.


By December 2020, in the Esperance region of WA, this project aimed to:
1. Demonstrate on at least 20 properties (core producers) that tighter joining periods via adoption of FTAI and the use of genetically superior sires could:
a. Reduce dystocia indicators in maiden heifers by an average of 40% (e.g. 6% vs 10% dystocia, 2.4% vs 4% calf mortality, 0.6% vs 1% heifer mortality)
b. Reduce empty rate in short mated heifers by 30% e.g. from 15% to 10%
c. Reduce empty rate in the heifers' subsequent mating by 20%.
2. Result in at least 50% of core producers continuing to adopt tighter joining periods via adoption of FTAI and the use of genetically superior sires in their commercial heifer breeding program after the project completion.
3. Increase awareness and knowledge of heifer management strategies to reduce the prevalence of dystocia in maiden heifers by at least 75% of observer producers attending demonstration sites and field days, with 20% indicating they will adopt the practice.

Key findings

This PDS has demonstrated that within a southern beef breeding production system, integrating fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) into commercial producers' heifer mating programs can address dystocia, improve rebreeding rates and improve weaning weights.

There were ten producers involved in this project, representing 15 mating opportunities over three years.

The project showed that, on average, the integration of FTAI using calving ease sires reduced dystocia, calf mortality, and heifer mortality. The average farm demonstrated a reduction in dystocia of 51%, calf mortality of 60.4%, and heifer mortality of 94%.

The project demonstrated an improvement in pregnancy at testing as a result of the intervention, with 11 of the 15 sites showing an improvement in pregnancy rate.

As a result of synchronisation, the project also showed a statistically significant improvement in calving distribution over the first 28 days of the calving season, resulting in the majority of heifers from the FTAI integrated group calving well in advance of the heifers from the control mated group.

Benefits to industry

This PDS demonstrated the productivity and financial benefits of integrating FTAI into commercial heifer mating programs and supported wider adoption of FTAI within commercial beef enterprises.

MLA action

MLA continues to deliver the Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) program, supporting livestock producers working in peer-to-peer groups to pursue new skills, knowledge and management practices applicable to their own commercial livestock production systems.

More information

Project manager: Hilary Connors
Contact email: