Eric Maynard, Dairy Education Instructor, Genex
Details, details, details. As many of the Excellence in Reproduction and Genetics award winners would say, a successful reproductive program is the result of relentless attention to detail. Many of those details relate to semen handling and artificial insemination (A.I.) technique, as these play a major role in conception success.
The tips included in this article are meant to remind you of the details – the proper protocols – and help you to achieve a higher level of conception success.
Weather: Good old Mother Nature can play havoc on cattle breeding. When it is cold, insemination guns should be warmed. Touch the insemination gun to your face. If it feels cold, it needs to be warmed. Warming the insemination gun to body temperature helps keep sperm from experiencing cold shock.
Hot and sticky weather can have an effect too, causing sperm to overheat. During warm temperatures place a barrier between you and loaded insemination guns to try to keep their temperature closer to your normal body temperature. This barrier will also help prevent sweat from possibly contaminating the guns.
Sheath Protectors: While introducing the insemination gun to the cervix, bacteria and debris dragged from the vulva and vagina may enter too. The vaginal and uterine inflammatory response lowers chances of a pregnancy. Therefore, promoting the application of a clean technique is not a waste of time and neither is the use of sheath protectors. Some may argue against the practicality of sanitary sheaths, but research shows this simple technology could increase A.I. pregnancy rates up to 6%1.
Synch Day: Synch day is game day in the cattle reproduction world. To make this day a success, one must plan ahead. Know the number of animals to be bred and the details of the synchronization protocol. Remember cows like routine and consistency so be as consistent as possible and focus on each step in the breeding process.
Cleaning: Regular cleaning of equipment is an important detail. Bacteria and debris can contaminate sperm or, as mentioned, cause vaginal or uterine inflammation. Alleviate the issue by using sheath protectors and cleaning insemination guns thoroughly with disinfectant wipes. Don't forget to disinfect the warm water thaw unit too. When the water is dumped out, that filmy, slippery covering on the inside of the unit is the result of bacteria growth.
In conclusion, cattle breeders' attention to detail plays a major role in conception success from equipment cleaning to the semen thawing process and performing A.I. The more consistent an individual is, the more consistent the results will be. And, if an issue arises in a reproductive program, don't over look the small details. Remember the small stuff adds up to something big.
1Schuenemann, et al. 2011. The use of plastic cover sheaths at the time of artificial insemination improved fertility of lactating dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci 94:793-799.