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Making the most of assisted reproduction

A fixed time insemination program is the most cost-effective way to achieve more artificial pregnancies if the semen isn’t too expensive.

But for those wanting to get the most out of the reproductive technology, following some quality assurance protocols can help limit pregnancy rate losses.

Vetoquinol Australia and New Zealand business unit manager Dr Sophia Edwards gave practical tips to dairy and beef producers about using fixed time AI as part of the 2020 Genetics Australia online conference.

Dr Edwards said fixed time AI was actually “quite simple” and ensuring optimal results was about planning and management at each step of the process.

“There’s pre- mating management, you might be considering vaccinations for reproduction loss, and nutrition – certainly ensuring animals are on a rising plane of nutrition and have a good body condition score,” she said.

“Then there is the synchronisation treatments, making sure you have the correct protocol, you are giving the right doses according to your herd. There’s the element of semen quality, the collection and management of that semen and there’s the insemination itself. Ensuring you have a technician that is experienced and doing a good job and... post-mating management, ensuring again, that the nutrition is managed forward and ensuring the health of those females.”

Using Angus Sire Benchmarking data out of South America, Dr Edwards showed how fixed time AI not only ensured more calves were born earlier in the season, these calves would also be up to 38kg heavier at weaning.

She said those born via the fixed time AI program were 205 days old at weaning, 19 to 24 days older than naturally sired calves. ““In a beef situation earlier calves are heavier, and more weight equals more dollars,” she said.

This study also demonstrated there were 8 per cent more pregnancies for those animals exposed to fixed time AI, than other ways of joining. This was because early synchronisation offered cows opportunities for return heats and the program also helped remedy the non-cycling animals.

In a 450-cow dairy herd in northern Victoria, the average calving date was 12 days earlier thanks to fixed time AI.

Twenty days into the calving season, assuming all cows have the same gestation, this represents a 121 per cent increase in production at the start of the season, Dr Edwards said. At the end of the season this translated to 19.8 per cent more milk.

Looking at the future of reproduction technologies, Dr Edwards explained the concept of surrogate sires- where one bull ejects the sperm cells of a higher genetic merit animal. She said this could be used to introduce new genetics into herds via tropically adapted bulls.

Dr Edwards also predicted a rise in the use of “big data” in the breeding industry, the technologies of genomics and assisted reproduction merging and animal “wearable” technologies would become common management.