Semen handling in large programs

02 Nov, 2016 01:58 PM
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Pay attention to the detail to ensure success in AI synchrony program.
Work out a simple system that everyone on farm can understand.
Pay attention to the detail to ensure success in AI synchrony program.

IT is becoming increasingly common for dairy farmers to use synchronisation programs routinely in their artificial insemination breeding plans.

Because synchrony programs are becoming so commonly used, it is important to remind farmers of a number of basics which are important to get right if conception rates are to be maximised.

Follow the program

It is absolutely vital that the AI synchronisation program is followed to the letter.

Do not adjust dosages or dates without checking with your veterinarian or service provider.

These programs are carefully constructed and cannot be changed mid-stream.

If using auto-injectors, make sure the dosage is correct.

If using implants, make sure that manufacturer’s instructions are followed.

Good cow ID

Good cow ID makes everything easier.

This is when all the effort with freeze-branding or the dollars invested in a good RFID drafting system gets rewarded.

Invest in some good marking paint in several different colours and don’t be afraid to use it liberally.

Work out a simple system that everyone on farm can understand.

Book your AI tech early

If you normally do your own AI but know that you are going to need the assistance of a professional AI technician on certain days when you are likely to have large numbers of cows to AI, then make sure you book the AI technician as soon as possible.

Everybody gets really busy during the joining season and it is silly to start a costly synchronisation program and then not be able to book an AI technician because they are all busy elsewhere.

Don’t compromise

Good semen handling is an important component of getting cows in calf.

But somehow, during some large synchrony programs, the sheer number of cows needing to be inseminated in a short time leads to some really dodgy short cuts in the area of semen handling.

This is even worse if sexed semen is being used.

Thawing water should be between 32 and 38 degrees Celsius.

Always – no exceptions.

All too often, the standards of semen handling are seriously compromised during large programs and this will have an impact on conception rates.

Time limit

Once it is removed from the AI tank, semen should be used (or inside the cow) within 15 minutes.

Any longer than this and conception will be negatively affected.

Also, on cold days it takes approximately 30 seconds for thawed semen in a loaded gun to revert to the ambient temperature.

This is called ‘cold shock’ and it can severely damage sperm cells.

Loaded AI guns should be kept warm and clean at all times – this should be a priority.

It is worth getting extra assistance if needed on these hectic days to increase the effi ciency of the thawing and gun-loading processes.

Good facilities are gold

Expecting AI technicians to perform at their best when balanced on a plank of wood between two drums in a herringbone pit is unrealistic.

No-one can do a good job if they feel unsafe.

Often, these large programs are done on a rotary platform during milking and what farmer doesn’t love the concept of getting two jobs done at once – milking and lots of cows AI’d at the same time? It is also unrealistic to expect AI technicians to work at normal rotary speeds – if you have less than 30 seconds to get into the cow, make sure you are through the cervix and press the plunger, sometimes you are going to be pushed for time.

If the farmer won’t slow the rotary down to a realistic pace, chances are the AI technician might just have to let the semen go wherever it is convenient rather than where it should go.

Attention to detail

AI synchronisation programs can be an expensive mistake if you don’t pay attention to detail.

It makes sense to work the odds in your favour by following the program exactly, and insisting that your AI technicians don’t take any short cuts when it comes to semen handling, thawing and semen placement inside the cow.

Give them the facilities to do a good job.

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National Herd Improvement Association of Australia

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