The Process of Artificially Inseminating a Cow

By : Clif Little, OSU Extension Guernsey County

What are some logical steps in utilizing artificial insemination (AI) on the farm?  We will assume cows and heifers are good candidates for a synchronization program.  However, months prior to AI implementation review the desired cow and heifer physiological condition and factors that influence response to AI.  As with any new venture, it is beneficial to first observe the AI process.  There are many steps to the process, and the timing and flow of work are of utmost importance to the success of AI.

The best way to visualize the proper workflow is to see the process in action on a farm utilizing the protocol which one intends to implement. Ask the local Extension Educator for examples of farms utilizing AI, and if possible, visit and or assist in the process as a guest. This experience will provide a more complete image of how to adopt AI to one’s unique facility.  Attend an AI school.  Semen providers and some universities provide excellent AI courses.  Practice AI on beef cattle reproductive tracts prior to attempting on live animals, AI schools should provide this opportunity.  Seek the assistance of an experienced AI technician prior to the start of implementing an AI protocol. Technicians will provide valuable insight and tips which will affect success.

Before implementing an AI protocol, consult your veterinarian to address your herd health needs and hormone therapy.  Request that your veterinarian review the proper procedures for drug use and handling, injection technique, and proper sanitation procedures for AI prior to the implementation of the AI protocol.  Proper vaccination of animals prior to the start of an AI program is critical to success, follow veterinarian recommendations.  Always retain product labels, and handle and store according to the label recommendations.  Please note that some products carry “use special precautions” warnings related to exposure of children and women who are pregnant or of childbearing age. Be sure to have your veterinarian perform a breeding soundness exam at least 60 days prior to clean up bull use.

Review and select an AI protocol

One of the most comprehensive web based sites to review all aspects of the AI process in a beef cattle operation can be found at: The Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle, (https://beefrepro.unl.edu/).  Producers should note that protocols differ slightly for beef cows and heifers.   It is very important to closely follow the protocol selected.   The factors which influence the protocol selected for use on a farm is often influenced by time, labor, and the percent of AI sired calves desired.  Individual producers vary in how often they want to bring cattle to a working facility, observe heat, and give injections.  Fortunately, there are many different protocol systems that can accommodate almost any cattle producer.   As noted on the web site mentioned above, some systems are designed for producers to observe heat 2-3 times a day and inseminate 6-12 hours after standing heat.   Other systems involve a Fixed Timed AI protocol and the mass breeding of cows which eliminates the need for heat detection.

The process of planning the AI program starts with visualization of the procedures and obtaining AI training.  For specific guidance and planning of the AI protocol download the Estrus Synch Planner provided by the Beef Reproduction Task Force, (http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/estrussynch.html).

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