With the AI season firmly upon us, it is time to consider the breeding opportunities that DIY AI can bring to the farmer’s herd.
The Use of DIY AI
There is a common assumption among farmers that they couldn’t possibly be as good as the local AI man who AIs hundreds to thousands of cows each year. Both the farmer and the AI man can deliver the same service to a farmer’s herd, the only difference between the local AI man and DIY AI is the speed at which you’re capable of inseminating your cows.
Likewise, many people assume that if your herd size isn’t big you won’t have enough cows to inseminate to keep you in practice. However, this is not the case and from personal experience training people for DIY AI, it can be quite surprising how many farmers from small herd backgrounds choose to train in DIY AI.
Undoubtedly, there are many advantages that make DIY AI a viable option for many farmers and breeders regardless of herd size.
What is the right herd size?
Any size herd is suitable. It’s very easy to justify training yourself and staff members if your herd size is big as costs can be reduced significantly when purchasing semen in large volumes. But is DIY AI worth it if you have a small herd of 10 or 20 cows?
Believe it or not a lot of farmer/breeders that have trained with us at Dúnmasc Genetics have small herd sizes and have trained in DIY AI for many plausible reasons.
Firstly, they have the interest; farmers have a very close attachment with their animals and through DIY AI, farmers have a hands-on approach and tend to notice any problems that arise in their herd, this ultimately improves husbandry greatly.
Secondly, timing needs to be accurate with AI, cows need to inseminated 12 -14 hours after first standing heat. Understandably, it is not always possible to get an AI technician at the time you want and so DIY AI is a viable option which ensures optimum timing for insemination.
Thirdly, DIY AI farmers are not dependent upon the AI technician to store and mind their AI straws as a DIY AI license enables farmers to hold their own AI straws in the convenience of their own farm.
What makes AI easier?
Is it possible to make DIY AI easy on the home farm? The answer is yes; a good DIY AI training centre will provide you with all the required skills and knowledge to effectively AI on your home farm.
Skills and techniques that you will learn include; how to hold and manipulate the cervix, how to identify if the AI gun is in the wrong area or caught in folds, and identifying the correct position to deposit the semen.
In addition to this, trainers will cover areas such as having the animal ready and waiting for you, loading one gun, not having any spectators. The one thing I would highlight as a DIY AI trainer is that importance of remembering that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to serve a cow, once the gun is inside of the cow the semen in the straw is safe due to the body temperature of the cow.
So remember take it at your own speed, getting the cow in calf is the most important thing, not the speed at which the job is completed.
If you’re in a position where you have a lot of cows in your herd and a lot to serve every day and you’re new to DIY AI, one big factor that can hinder your performance is muscle fatigue. As your muscles become tired and frustration follows, the job at hand can become more difficult.
Easy ways to overcome this is exercising your hand and arm muscles to build up strength and condition. Some people have natural have strength in their arms weather they are a male or a female, others have to build their strength, and hence why some people can find it more difficult than others.
How should I care for my Semen (AI Straws)?
Firstly let’s start with your AI tank, many spring herds allow their pots to empty out of liquid nitrogen after the breeding season has ended and will fill it the following season again.
I strongly recommend against allow your tank empty, the cost of filling your AI flask with liquid nitrogen isn’t expensive but losing a pot of semen is. When your pot is filled with liquid nitrogen it is -198 degrees Celsius and to cool the pot down to these temperatures each year can put a lot of unnecessary stress on the aluminium insert inside of your tank which can cause fractures that cause the tank to fail.
Secondly, your AI straws should never leave liquid nitrogen unless you are thawing them out to AI a cow. Conception rates can be reduced from thermal damage where straws are being removed from liquid nitrogen unnecessarily.
A simple system detailing the straws in each goblet as well as using labelling tabs to identify individual AI straws are effective ways of avoiding the need to remove AI straws from storage unnecessarily.
When removing semen for thawing, it should be placed in water at 35 Degrees Celsius for 40 seconds. This is proven to thaw the semen most efficiently and give the best conception rates.
Important things to remember
Undoubtedly, a good training course will provide the farmer with the knowledge and skills to effectively AI on the home farm and improve conception rates.
The three steps that I highlight to all trainees are; have the cow ready, load the gun with the straw and place it down your back to keep it safe and remember the steps of introducing the gun at the correct angle allowing you to move it up through the cervix.
The last thing to remember is that once the gun is inside the cow it doesn’t matter how long it takes to serve her the straw is safe in the gun until you’re ready to inseminate.