DIY artificial insemination has a number of benefits. In this article we’ll look at the reproductive cycle of the cow and uncover why doing your own AI can help save money and time.
On a working farm, both dairy and beef cows will be expected to calf every 12 or 13 months. If the opportunity in the autumn or in the spring is missed, they lose the breeding season and will have to go for a whole year without being in calf.
The length of the pregnancy is pretty much set to run about nine months. Then what you are left with is a period of time straight after the previous calfing where the the cow needs to settle down into the new lactation, the new diet and to mix with other animals before she needs to start reproducing again.
In essence, during those 13 months the window for her to get back into calf is 45 days. So during those 45 days the cow will come bulling, her fertile phase will last if you’re lucky for 24 hours, although usually it’s 18 hours.
That happens again, on average, 21 days later and then again 21 days after that. So you’ve got three opportunities in those 45 days to get her in calf successfully. And if you miss that, then there will be delays.
If the cow gets in calf, during the first two to four months after carving, she will give increased amounts of milk so delay bring all sorts of other changes to the amount of milk produced and also the hygiene of the milk. So missing the window will have economic impacts and financial forecasting.
Benefits of DIY AI
Your first option with artificial insemination is to use a professional AI specialist who will visit your premise and carry out the work for you. They will charge a fee per animal but most importantly they may not be able to attend during the important 18 hour window.
Third party specialists usually work between 5 in the morning and 12 at lunchtime. If a cow needs to be inseminated after that time, she usually has to wait until the next day. And very often through this delay, she misses the fertile stage in her cycle.
The second option is to AI your own cattle, which saves money but also gives you some flexibility when the optimal time to inseminate is due. This is where DIY AI comes in.
Identify the Bulling Cow
You need to decide when is the right time to put it in, this decision will largely be based on experience and training, but there are now also devices that will tell you based on the activity of the cow.
You will look for signs such as restlessness, standing more than normal and resting her chin on other cows.
The next stage is about timing. We are always second guessing when the egg is going to be released. But we know that in the last 8-10 hours of the 18 window, the egg is released.
The sperms life is usually up to 24 hours. So it’s quite forgiving, but the two have to meet if they don’t, if the egg is dead or there not enough semen conception will not take place.
When she is ready we need to move her to the crush, a place where she can’t harm you and she can’t harm herself, as she gets worked up. From there we can perform the AI.
5 Steps of AI
You need to bear in mind that when you carry out the act of artificial insemination you are entering the cavity of an animal. The law clearly states that whenever that happens, you have to be a vet or you need to have an exemption from a vet to do it. In case of DIY AI, you can get this exemption if you’re trained by someone who’s approved to train you.
The five stages of the act of artificial insemination are as follows:
- Identify the cervix
- Gently Push the cervix to the side, against the pelvis
- Stretch the vagina, by pushing the cervix away from us
- In a clean manner, insert and advance the AI Catheter (rod) through the vagina, until the far tip of it touches the hand that holds the cervix.
- We work the cervixes back onto the catheter as if we would load meat cubes onto a spear in a similar way. The difference is the meat cubes in this case come pre-loaded with a hole in the middle. So as you’re putting the meat cubes on the rod, you are trying to find the hole in the meat cube so that the rod passes through the cube easily (YOU ARE VERY GOOD)!
Finally we need to record what you’ve served. You record the bull you served it with any other findings. Was it easy? Was it difficult?
Beyond that you should watch that they don’t come back bullying 21 days later, because it means it hasn’t worked and you’ll need to repeat the process.
You can watch our video on how we teach Artificial Insemination with a “Henryetta” here
Or find out more about our AI courses here