Fixed-time artificial insemination
To get the optimal result in an FTAI program, it is important that you follow the protocol. Often people alter programs at their own discretion. Protocols are designed based on the knowledge of the reproductive biology of the female and proven results. If you have an alternative suggestion for a protocol, please get in contact with your vet or one of our experts to discuss prior to treating your animals. It is acknowledged that you cannot treat every animal on the hour ever hour of the protocol particularly in larger mob sizes. Therefore it is acceptable to treat the females +/- 1 hr as per the prescribed protocol. If you have made a mistake, it is worth contacting your vet or an expert to discuss your options. Once the Cue-Mate is removed from the female, the timing of the events following becomes critical. There is some flexibility to change the times of events prior to the Cue-Mate being removed.
In general, when females are on a rising plane of nutrition prior to AI a good result to FTAI occurs. However, it is important that you do not drop the nutrition of the females directly after AI. When females continue to gain weight through till time of pregnancy diagnosis (up to 9 weeks after AI) favorable results occur. Managing the nutrition of your females throughout the breeding season should be perceived as a long term objective, rather than a spike feeding activity.
Although we would like all cows to ovulate in perfect synchrony during a FTAI program, the biological reality is that although the timing ovulation is spread like a bell curve, with majority of females ovulating over a 12 hour window, and some will be early and some will be late. If some females are identified in oestrus early, and it is easy to identify and draft these females off, you can choose to inseminate these females early. However, do not inseminate them earlier than 12 hours after the onset of this oestrus behavior. Please note that true FTAI programs do not require you to inseminate females early. Some females that are perceived to be on heat early, may have a delayed ovulation that is still within the boundaries of the prescribed AI time in the protocol. Alternatively, if a female ovulates 4 hours prior to AI, there is also a chance she will get pregnant. Thus the FTAI program can still work on these ‘early’ females and often due to the convenience, most people do not inseminate them early and just inseminate these females with the rest of the group.
Majority of reproductive hormones used in ET and FTAI programs are to be administered intramuscularly. It is therefore important that the needles are sufficiently long enough to reach the muscle, particularly in fatter females. The best needles to inject reproductive hormones for most reproductive hormones is a 21G 1 ½ Inch needle. The exception to the rule is when injecting oestradiol benzoate, we recommend an 18G needle as it is a thicker substance. Avoid using ½ inch needles that are typically supplied with multi-injection guns. Many people are concerned with the bending of needles when they are greater than 1 inch long. Therefore, if you are injecting many animals, we suggest using a ‘slap-shot’ extension tube attached to the multi-injection gun as this will avoid needle damage.
Although it is usually considered ‘best practice’ to inject livestock in the neck, we recommend for safety and efficacy reasons to inject in the rump of the animal. Most reproductive hormones are administered in low volumes (mostly ≤ 2 ml) and risk of damage to the carcass is minimal. Injecting into the rump when the animal is sufficiently restrained tends to be safer and more accurate than the neck. The exception to the rule is when you are injecting obese cattle that have significant amounts of back fat. If this is the case, the lower leg is sometimes used. If you are required to give multiple injections to animals, such as in a superovulation program using Folltropin, it is recommended that you alternate sides of the rump for injecting and use a new needle each time as this will be less painful to the female and reduce the temperament issues come flushing day.
As most of the reproductive hormones are generally administered in volumes ≤ 2 ml, we recommend using 2.5 ml or 3 ml syringes when dosing smaller groups of animals. Avoid using syringes that are 10 or 20 ml in size as they are not designed for administration of smaller doses. If you are required to administer a dose that is ≤ 1 ml (such as a low Folltropin dose for a Brahman heifer), we recommend using a 1 ml syringe as this allows for the accurate dosing at these smaller volumes. Multi-injection guns are recommended when injecting larger groups of females for recipients or FTAI. Be sure to use a good quality gun that is accurately calibrated to the dose that you are administering. Also check whilst treating the cattle that no air bubbles enter the chamber, as this will affect the accuracy of the dose each female receives.
It is very important that you treat all cows according the protocols that have been prescribed to you by your ET technician. As the donor cows have been super stimulated to cause multiple ovulations their hormonal profile will be significantly different to that of the recipient cows as their ovaries are not responding in a ‘normal’ manner. The varied timings of the FTAI and ET protocols account for these differences.
Handling facilities and managing the livestock
It is highly advised that the crush has a roof to reduce the amount of sunlight at the time of AI. Semen/embryos are sensitive to sunlight and it is advised that it is handled in the shade. The crush does not need to be ‘fancy’ but should be safe and functional. Temporary shade such as tarps have been effective if adequately restrained to reduce flapping so that they do not scare the stock. If you are considering running reproduction programs it may be worth considering investing in a roof for your crush. Despite the benefits for handling semen and embryos, shade also improves the welfare of your cattle and technician ensuring neither are heat stressed, increasing the likelihood of a good result.
If you are planning on holding your cattle in the yards for a period of time during the reproductive program it is highly advised that they have access to water, feed and shade. When livestock become nutritionally or environmentally stressed it is less likely they will respond to treatments or alternatively have a less fertile response. If you do not have easily accessible holding paddocks next to the yards, consider feeding a good quality cereal hay in the yards during this time.