Artificial Insemination is odtaining efficient and economic breeding to achieve the desired traits in the offspring. In this method semen from the male is collected and introduced into the female system at the most appropriate time.
This technique though not very cumbersome and very much standardized, involves lot of precautions and alertness on the part of the personnel handling the whole programme. This involves taking care of males from birth to maturity; collecting, grading, preserving and transporting of the semen; and inseminating semen into females. The status of the females being covered by Artificial Insemination(AI) contributes largely to the success.
Advantages of Artificial Insemination
Genetic improvement: The ability of dairy bulls to transmit dairy traits to their daughters came to be understood. This led to the use of good bulls for upgrading and crossbreeding. Further, the AI made it possible to assess the bull in a very rigid situation and pick up a few outstanding bulls for propagation. The concept of communal bull disappeared and the concept of progeny testing and proven sire became established.
Economics: The number of bulls needed to cover a given female population was very much. A few good chosen bulls could be raised and maintained well. The semen could be transported to long distances, to the door-steps of the farmers, in a compact way.
Commercial: Many industries and co-operatives benefited because of the development of Artificial Insemination programs. Equipment, accessories, collection materials, development of extenders, semen shippers, and many such items associated with this job were taken up by the tradesmen. This gave rise to technological development and employment opportunities. Many farmers who could raise good sires benefited by selling the semen than selling the bull itself as it used to be.
Social: Since a very few top-quality sires are available their profitable use became inevitable. The inseminators and sperm station managers became a source of communication. They could talk to the farmers concerning disease control, hygiene, economic farming, etc., and became a source of feedback. Further, to make the utmost use of good quality semen, co-operatives or other organizations came up.
Academic: Many qualities associated with polygenic characters came under intensive study. Herd recording and sire index were considered in their proper perspective. Many aspects of the bull evaluation were streamlined. Bull became half the herd for quality breeding, disease control, and fertility regulation.
Stress on many unwarranted aspects of external appearance and morphology was given up. The bull selection became refined on conformation and seminal characteristics. Detailed Studies were taken upon genetics and nutrition. The discovery of phase contrast and fluorescence microscopy helped to study the sperm structure. The entire biology of the spermatozoa came under the focal point The refinements made in the preservation techniques also brought in the need to understand the breed and species differences.
Dairy industry: Research in the areas of genetics and breeding indicated that quality and quantity of milk can be regulated by selective breeding and inter-se mating. Through AI these can be scientifically followed, quickly propagated, and properly evaluated. Bulls have been evaluated not only for confirmation and total milk yield but also for the percentages of fat and protein.
Reproductive efficiency: The right time and type of Artificial Insemination have to be adopted if optimum fertility is to be ensured. Good sires that have lost the capacity to breed naturally can be made to donate semen. Oversized or short bulls can also be exploited for their genetic potential through AI. The female genitalia can be examined and then AI can be done to ensure fertility. Sexual health can be guarded. AI can restrict the spread of such diseases which a bull is likely to spread.
Disadvantages of Artificial Insemination
The adoption of Artificial Insemination to breeding has brought into picture middlemen between the bull and the dam. The collector, dilution, shipper and inseminator all these people work as via media from the time the semen is collected and deposited into the female organ.
Skilled workers: The use of AI needs trained personnel in the sperm station and inseminators at the village level. Many a time an error of judgment on the part of AI workers contribute to infections, repeat breeding, and associated problems.
Sexual health: A contaminated or poorly preserved and transported semen is not only poor in its fertilizing capacity but contributes to infections. Strict hygienic and as far as possible sterile conditions need to be maintained at collections, distribution (transport), and insemination points. Sexual diseases spread through semen. Poorly preserved semen get easily contaminated and become a source of contamination.
Breeding difficulties: AI gives a good scope to use a sire for many dams, but it does not serve to solve many breeding problems. Poor collection, preservation, transport, and error in judging the heat before insemination upset any such advantage offered by the sire fertility. Hence overall gain is as good as natural service or in certain cases lower than that.
Heat detection: Very efficient heat detection is required to make AI a success. Though anyone symptom or more than one (that is useful to track a female) is employed, still man is a poor detector of heat than the male of the species.
Poor techniques: Poor techniques at collection centers especially those concerned with the setting of the artificial vagina, hygiene of the bull, and the quality of extenders are the factors that deteriorate the quality of semen. The technicians should be good at evaluating the semen and should know the importance of temperature, pH, etc.
Genetical problems: The introduction of AI has put into use sires that pass dairy traits especially those associated with the quantity of milk and certain qualities. However, AI has brought into picture the use of a few sires in a larger female population and thus the inbreeding effects. Further, more attention given to only milch qualities has brought in problems of adaptation, disease resistance, and reproductive efficiency.
Infections: The most vital point of need in the AI program is the detection of the right type of heat and AI at the appropriate time to assure the maximum percentage of conception.
AI has to timed with ovulation, the viability of egg and sperm, and also the time needed for capacitation in such species where it has to be considered. Though such information is fairly available for exotic cattle and considered not much different for endemic cattle they are not yet available for buffalo and goat, the animals of our importance.
AI at early and late heat is unfruitful. It causes infections in cervix and uterus, and puts animals on repeat breeders list AI in post-insemination period should be done after a very careful examination or else one risks infections, early embryo mortality or abortion (this is known to occur when AI is done in the gestational heat).