A successful artificial insemination program is the result of many separate steps done correctly.
By: Warren Rusche, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist
Factors such as insemination timing, semen placement, estrous detection and synchronization protocols usually receive the most focus. Semen handling is often overlooked in the discussion, but is just as important to the success or failure of AI.
It is important to keep in mind that the sperm cells in the straw of semen are live organisms that must undergo the stress of thawing before they can fertilize an egg. Additional stressors such as thermal shock or exposure to ultraviolet light could result in reduced viability of sperm cells, and in extreme cases result in the death of all of the sperm cells in the straw. There is simply too much money and time invested in artificial insemination only to end up with compromised semen.
Review procedures and needed supplies before breeding season
Before the start of the breeding season, it is a good practice to review the proper semen handling procedures. Beef producers often only breed cattle for a few weeks each year and lessons learned during AI training sometimes fade over time. Reviewing the principles and procedures annually can be a valuable refresher.
Making sure that all needed supplies are on hand is another step that could prevent costly errors or delays. Taking inventory of the AI kit ensures that the necessary equipment is located where it is supposed to be. The same is true of the semen tank. Knowing where the right straws are located reduces the amount of time spent searching when the cow or heifer is in the chute.
Electric thaw baths have become more popular because they keep the water at a constant temperature, which eliminates the need to add warm water to a thermos. A step that is often overlooked is to check to make sure that the thaw bath is warming water to the correct temperature. Occasionally these units will need calibration to keep the water temperatures in the recommended 94 to 98⁰ F range.