This breeding method, as opposed to natural or uncontrolled mating, gives communal farmers more control over the calving date of their cows in order to ensure the availability of sufficient feed sources, which tend to vary throughout the year. For both communal and commercial producers, AI also provides a cheaper alternative to buying a bull, as one semen straw will only cost you R100 to R250, while a good bull will set you back a minimum of R20 000.
However, biosecurity should never take a back seat when it comes to introducing new genetic material into the herd. Although South Africa has some stringent regulatory frameworks governing biosecurity, it is vital that every producer making use of AI stays abreast of breeding conditions, processes and biosecurity protocols.
Benefits and hurdles
AI involves the collection, evaluation and insemination of semen from a fertile bull into the uterus of a cow. This allows producers to improve the reproduction efficiency in a herd, crossbreed certain animals, increase heat tolerance and resistance to tickborne diseases in future generations and, ultimately, improve herd production.
But while the advantages of AI far outweigh the disadvantages, this breeding practice nevertheless requires certain management skills and on-farm facilities, which means that not all producers are able to use AI on their cows.
The issue of disease transmission
According to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), natural mating is more likely to be accompanied by disease transmission. Strict biosecurity measures, testing for diseases, and a good vaccination programme approved by a local veterinarian, can keep disease transmission in check during natural mating.
To eliminate disease transmission through AI, rigorous testing of the semen and semen donor – as set out by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in the Animal Improvement Act, 1998 (Act 62 of 1998), the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984) and the Livestock Improvement Act, 1977 (Act 25 of 1977) – must be conducted by qualified professionals and overseen by veterinarians and state veterinarians at registered facilities throughout South Africa.
These regulatory practices have been adopted by numerous governments throughout the world to help avoid the spread of contagious diseases and to reduce contamination of semen by ubiquitous bacteria.
The Animal Improvement Act
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