Artificial Insemination (A.I.) has been used in the cattle industry worldwide for over 70 years (it is recorded as early as 1780’s for other breeds of animals) but in cattle breeds it first started with dairy cattle. Today A.I. is very common with both beef and dairy cattle breeds, and is used extensively within cattle studs large and small.
A.I. is a scientific fertility treatment in which male sperm is collected and artificially implanted in the female reproductive system as a way to aid conception. In Highland Cattle in Australia A.I. has been used to produce genetically superior beef carcases and improved the countries herds immensely.
It is certainly a great start if you only have small numbers of cattle on small acreage and don’t want the extra work of running and managing a bull. We used A.I. extensively at Ennerdale in the beginning and continue to use A.I. to improve the herd by introducing new blood lines - but there are important facts to consider and we have listed them below as they have become apparent to us over the years. Ennerdale found and attended an A.I. course - we have benefited with the knowledge provided and now understand the procedure and the oestrus detection significance which is crucial to successful A.I. A.I. is not for everyone and we understand this - it takes dedication, patience and practice. It requires an understanding of cattle behaviours and their individual nuances. It also requires taking the time to monitor your cattle day and night in order to maximise the likelihood of a successful conception.
Inspect the A.I. Sire, his Dam or, if they are not available for inspection, the progeny is the next best thing. Some may suggest photos and video are a great way to view the A.I. Sire or progeny. Ennerdale prefer to assess the animals personally. This can involve the expense of traveling to inspect animals but purchasing semen and arranging for a technician can be costly so you should try and maximise the A.I success in terms of genetic quality and conception rate. As a cattle breeder, you want to be sure of getting the best semen to suit your animals. Personally inspecting potential Sires can uncover deformities such as, bad feet (which may be hidden in grass/mud in photos) Bad udders (which can be hidden by hair in photos) and crop ear (if sourcing semen from overseas). Take care to check the animals mobility when walking and see how it tracks for good structure and conformation. Plus the most important trait in our view is temperament. If you are just starting or unsure - then seek help from an experienced cattle person.
REMEMBER: - Pedigree is not everything! It does not necessarily mean a good animal.
This is why we have taken the time at Ennerdale over many years to watch and observe. It is a lengthy process - so don’t give up - have a go!
Below are some of the points we think are important when considering A.I. The do’s and don’ts as we see it. We hope they help!
A.I. can be labour intensive ( but if you have done your homework on the technician and sire - the results will be beneficial )
There is a blood test available now which can be taken 30 days after the animal has been A.I. It will inform you if the animal is in calf or not. Great if you have missed an animal or not sure if they are actually in calf.
We still cull A.I. animals at Ennerdale if they don’t pass the quality test, even after all the A.I. procedure ( time and cost ) we have been through to get that calf on the ground. If you adopt this strategy you too will end up with a better herd.
Remember building a better herd takes time and won’t happen overnight.
Good luck, enjoy the process!
Ennerdale assessed highland cattle over a three year period to gain as much knowledge as possible before establishing the fold - so we know the importance of research.