Breeding – Procedures in Artificial Insemination
- 1. Keep the semen warm for it is extremely temperature sensitive and will be irrevocably damaged if improperly handled. Never allow the temperature of semen thawed in 95°F water to drop below 80°F. If at all possible, perform your insemination in a heated environment. Thoroughly pre-warm the inseminating gun before inserting the straw. If no heated facility is available, use a heating pad or hot water bottle to keep the semen and related equipment at the proper temperature before use.
- 2. Inseminate at the proper time, as most successful inseminators agree that conception rates are generally highest when breeding during the later third of standing heat. In our experience, breeding a doe approximately 6 – 10 hours before she goes out of standing heat has yielded the best results. During the main part of the breeding season and with most does, this means breeding approximately 24-30 hours after the onset of estrus.
- 3. Always deposit semen deep intracervically by measuring the depth of penetration of the breeding gun. After passing through several cervical rings, place a clean breeding sheath in the speculum alongside the gun with its tip against the back wall of the does’ vagina. Compare the difference between the length of the two breeding sheaths. Ideal depth of penetration is approximately 1 ½ inches.
- 4. Use only one straw per breeding as research in goat production indicates that sperm cells introduced into the does’ reproductive tract tend to form “colonies” in the mucous present in the folds of the cervix. After undergoing a short maturation process, they migrate in fairly constant number from the cervix into the uterus and ultimately on to the oviduct, where union of the egg actually occurs. Quantities of viable sperm cells sufficient for adequate fertilization should remain in the reproductive tract for up to 18 hours after the first insemination.
- The use of a second straw of semen later in heat can cause a disruption in the orderly migration of mature sperm cells from the colonies already established in the cervix and actually reduces the chance of conception.
- 5. Avoid attempting to AI does who remain in standing heat longer than 48 hours for reasons not fully understood, does exhibiting extremely lengthy standing estrus generally fail to conceive when artificially inseminated. Abnormally long heats are more common early in the breeding season, and occur more frequently in some areas than others. Fortunately in most cases the condition is transitory and most does begin to exhibit more normal estrus behavior as the breeding season progresses.
- 6. Use of hormones to synchronize does, though successful and useful, may result in lowered conception rates. Many breeders have reported disappointing AI conception rates after having used hormones to induce estrus in goats. If it is necessary to synchronize a group of does in this way, wait until the first natural heat after the drug induced estrus before artificially inseminating. Be aware that the use of prostaglandins may cause erratic estrus behavior in some animals, which can persist for several months.
- 7. Deposit semen very slowly because rapid expulsion of semen from the breeding gun can damage sperm cells and cause irritation of the does’ reproductive tract. Count to fifteen very slowly while depressing the plunger on the breeding gun.
- 8. Don’t haul a doe in heat to have her bred via AI. If you do not have your own equipment or storage tank and must transport your does to have them bred, plan to board them several days before they are due to come into heat. It is probably preferable if you cannot breed your own does yourself to have an AI technician come to your farm to perform the insemination. You can do your own inseminating even if you do not own your own tank. Small quantities of semen can be transported and stored for a half day or longer in a stainless steel thermos bottle. Make sure that you do not screw the lid onto the thermos as possible rupture can occur as a result of nitrogen gas pressure.
- 9. For best conception rates, inseminate only does with regularly occurring heats and no history of breeding or kidding problems. Does that are difficult to settle by natural service are not good AI candidates. Proper nutritional management also pays a big role in reproductive efficiency. Does that are overly fat or thin are less than ideal prospects for AI breeding. Virgin does should present no problem so long as they weigh at least 75 lbs.
- 10. Don’t attempt to AI a doe on her first heat cycle of the season – the first heat cycle of the year is often infertile and is frequently followed by a second heat 5 to 8 days later. Conception rates will usually be higher if you wait until the second or later heats to do your breeding. Likewise, conception rates may drop off if you attempt AI towards the very end of the normal breeding season.
- 11. Watch your does carefully 17 to 22 days after breeding them by AI for some reason that some does who conceive by AI experience a false heat three weeks later. Although they may exhibit otherwise typical estrus behavior, such does will seldom allow a buck to mount them. If in doubt, submit a milk or blood sample to a testing laboratory for a progesterone assay.
- 12. Keep detailed records of your AI breeding. Note such factors as color and consistency of cervical mucous, depth and relative difficulty or cervical penetration, length of standing heat both before and after inseminating, weather conditions, time required to complete the insemination, and other pertinent information. These records will often be of great help in explaining why some does settle and others did not.
- 13. Know your does. Chart the heat cycles of each of your animals on a calendar. Observe them at least three times daily during the breeding seasons for signs of estrus behavior. Note the number of hours that each does remains in standing heat, and the relative intensity of estrus activities such as flagging, fighting and mounting other does.
- 14. Observe proper sanitary procedures. Specula should be thoroughly washed and sanitized between use. Scrub the doe’s external genitalia with soap and water and dry completely before inserting the speculum. Do not use iodine-based products, as iodine is spermicidal. Take care not to touch the part of the speculum or breeding sheath which is inserted in the doe’s vagina.
- 15. Attend an AI school. Attendance at an AI school taught by a competent and knowledgeable instructor can increase your chances of success with AI. As with any other acquired skill, hands-on experience is the best way to develop the confidence and correct techniques necessary to use AI effectively.
- 16. Do your homework. Artificial insemination is only a tool, albeit a powerful one. To be really successful with AI, you have to do more than just put kids on the ground. Only through intelligent selection of sires compatible with the objectives of a carefully thought out breeding program can AI benefit you, the breeder, or the meat and dairy goat industry.