The use of AI and ET allows producers access to a vast network of genetics
Artificial insemination (AI) in livestock provides many benefits to producers and the agriculture industry through lower breeding costs and genetic diversity.
AI and embryo transfer are ways of providing production benefits to a livestock production operation. AI, specifically, is a popular way of breeding livestock through directly inserting sperm in a straw into the female of the species.
The use of AI has become more popular over the years and now provides many benefits. AI can be used to strengthen the genetic diversity of a herd. It allows the producer to have access to genetics from all over the world and access sires that may strengthen bloodlines. Many producers would likely be unable to afford to purchase the top sires, but AI allows them access to high-quality stock.
“AI allows producers to take advantage of other producer’s genetics from all over the country,” said Bryan Kutz, animal science instructor at the University of Arkansas. “The ability to use so many different genetic lines with the use of AI allows you to diversify your herd greatly.”
According to Kutz, AI is more cost effective than natural reproduction for many producers. An owner can purchase straws for his or her herd instead of purchasing a male animal to act as a sire. Purchasing straws can be a money-saver for smaller breeders who cannot justify buying a male for breeding.
“[AI can save money] because the average bull is going to cost $3,500 to $5,000, and the average straw of semen is $25 to $50,” said Kutz.
AI is commonly used among a number of species and breeding situations. Swine and cattle are both very common species for AI, and the swine industry leads the pack.
“The swine industry uses AI the most,” said Kutz. “It is really simple. You can get fresh semen shipped to you the next day after collection. You don’t have to freeze swine semen. Keeping boars around can be dangerous and rather inconvenient.”
While AI has many benefits, it also has a couple of downfalls. There is no guarantee that a female will become pregnant every time with AI, but there are methods to increase chances of conception. AI is also takes more time than traditional breeding.
“It takes up more of your time. You have to set up the females with controlled internal drug release devises, hormone injections checking heat and then the time it takes for the actual AI process,” said Kutz. “It is not difficult, just more time consuming relative to just turning in the bull with the cows.”
The decision to incorporate AI into an operation is different for each individual. It can be used to improve marketing strategies and structure. According to Kutz, most will be able to make a decision based on their needs and makeup. Producers can contact veterinarians, animal genetic specialists, reproductive service companies or AI certified individuals if they are interested in taking the next step in AI.