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An AWI-funded research project aims to improve the success rates and reliability of artificial insemination (Al) programs.
For many years laparoscopic AI using frozen semen has produced highly variable results. The good results have been OK, but the bad results have often been very bad and producers have been walking away from the technology.
Investigations to date have been unable to explain the large variation in conception rates between sites but have pointed to several likely causes and possible remedies.
New AWI-funded research aims to address several of these issues by developing new treatment protocol(s) that are able to consistently produce improved levels of synchrony of oestrus. It is anticipated that this new treatment protocol will replace the existing standard treatment protocol that has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s.
By examining the effects of body condition scores, feed intakes and progesterone concentrations on synchrony of oestrus, the project also aims to develop improved management strategies for Al programs.
The AWI-funded research, which is due to run until the middle of next year, is being carried out through the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) by Dr Simon Walker, Dr Dave Kleemann and Dr Jen Kelly.
Semen quality has often been blamed for the variable success rates of AI programs. However, while semen quality is one of a number of factors that need to be optimised, Dr Walker says it is highly unlikely to be a major reason for the poor results.
“Substantial research into semen quality has been conducted over the past 30– 40 years and AI results today are no better than they were back then – in fact, they are probable worse,” he said.
Dr Walker says the current synchronisation protocol (CIDR for 14 days followed by PMSG), which has long been presumed by the sheep industry to routinely produce a good synchrony, needs reassessment.
“This dogma reaches far and wide within the industry. The reality is much different – there are good, average and bad synchronies across flocks with matching pregnancy rates. A good rule of thumb is ‘a good synchrony produces a good result.’ One of the challenges of this project is to identify the reasons for this variability and to develop protocols that are more reliable.”
Once the research is complete, the outcomes will be reported through field days, seminars and updates to commercial companies. An extension package including a best practice manual will also be produced for veterinarians and sheep breeders to help adoption of the technical advances.
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