Source: Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Artificial insemination or AI has become a popular means of impregnating cows in the modern production facility, but this is not due to the lack of a bull’s interest in cows. Bulls will mate in the natural way with cows when given unrestricted or repeated access.
AI has become a favored method of reproduction for several reasons, some of which include:
- Locating most bulls in a centralized collection facility means that only very experienced personnel need come into contact with the bulls. As anyone who has been around an excited bull knows that they can be quite ornery; sometimes downright dangerous. One does not need a matador’s taunts and red flag to entice them to check out their handler — a little too close for comfort sometimes!
- Centralized collection facilities can also ensure that the semen is free of transmissible diseases and is of high quality, resulting in excellent pregnancy rates and healthy cows and offspring.
- Using a small pool of genetically superior bulls allows for the gradual improvement of breed performance parameters. Selecting semen from bulls whose families produce high milk yield, good muscle mass, and good overall leg conformation and udder health provides a way for modern producers to keep their facilities competitive, productive and profitable.
- Injury to the bull or cow during mating is prevented. Sometimes a bull may slip on a surface during breeding or other accidents or aggressive incidents may occur, but with AI all physical contact between bull and cow is eliminated.
A farmer may still choose to run a bull with a herd, especially in beef cattle production facilities, and Mother Nature’s way still provides a good crop of healthy offspring, but close monitoring of reproductive performance, herd improvement, and effective disease management is frequently conducted using a more confined, controlled production system. Artificial Insemination is a frequently used technique, integrated into such systems.