Artificial insemination (AI) is now a common practice in the agricultural and livestock industry, especially for dairy cattle breeding (75%) and swine breeding (85%). It offers an easier and economical method to improve the desirable characteristics of their herds. They can get access to semen from quality bulls that they cannot afford to buy. Frozen semen can be delivered anywhere in the world.
AI is not commonly used to breed horses, as equine associations, particularly the Jockey Club, will not accept/register Thoroughbreds borne using AI.
Semen from a donor is collected, extended (adding a glycerol solution so it can impregnate more females using fewer sperms), cooled and/or frozen. Frozen sperm is placed in a small plastic vial called a “straw” for easy transport. Sometimes an antibiotic is also added for bacterial disease control.
Whether done by qualified technicians, veterinarians or licensed farmers, artificial insemination procedures remain the same.
Artificial inseminating devices:
- Tail Paint
- Stainless steel or non-corrosive plastic kit box containing:
o Lubricating jelly and dispenser
o Thaw Monitor
o Thawing Flask
o Universal Sheaths
o High-quality shoulder length veterinary gloves
o Inseminating Rods/Straw Guns
o Paper Towel
- Make sure that the cow is in estrus (in heat) for a high rate of success. Insemination should be done 12-24 hours after the cow is in estrus as this ensures that the sperm is delivered before ovulation.
- Before thawing the frozen semen, restrain the cow in an area where it is familiar with to keep it calm.
- Assemble all inseminating devices within easy reach. Keep them sterile, dry and warm to avoid cold-shocking the cow.
- Clean the cow’s hind area, sanitizing the rectum and vulva and wipe these areas dry with paper towels.
- Be careful to avoid the vulva region when applying lubricant to the rectum, as it is spermicidal.
- Load the straw into the inseminating rod (catheter).
- Wear your gloves and using one hand, insert the rod into the vulva at an angle of 30° to 40° to avoid entering the urethral floor of the vagina.
- Guide and push the rod with your hand deeper within the cervix. Placing the cervix onto the rod, manipulate the cervix slightly ahead of the rod while maintaining a steady forward pressure until the rod reaches the uterine body where the semen should be deposited.
- Position the rod tip properly and slowly release the semen to ensure a maximum amount of semen is delivered from the straw. Withdraw the rod only after you have finished delivering the semen.
Accurate and successful insemination requires the proper training, concentration, clear understanding of the animal’s reproductive anatomy to find the target area, accuracy in insemination rod positioning as well as good sanitation practices.