Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Interested in DIY Artificial Insemination?

Before joining AHDB, Amy Fawcett AHDB Beef & Lamb Knowledge Exchange Manager worked with cattle as an Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer Technician for most of her career. She now leads on a number of AI projects within AHDB.

Earlier in the year we funded a number of artificial insemination (AI) courses across the country, run by XL Vets Training Services and Westpoint Farm Vets. They were so popular with producers that we have approved funding for a further 250 places.
We had 80 expressions of interest for 50 course places. I know that giving producers the ability to perform AI themselves enables them to serve cattle at the correct time and reduces service costs, while putting them in control of their own breeding strategies.
Traditionally AI isn’t widely used on suckler farms, but I know from experience that the rate of genetic gain that can be achieved within a herd by using AI is incredible. The cost of a straw of semen from a bull with good, high reliability EBVs is a fraction of the cost of buying and keeping a bull on farm.
Using AI enables producers to select bulls that are suited to their herd’s breeding programme and is an ideal way to introduce different bloodlines into the herd. Sires can be chosen for both maternal and terminal traits and sexed semen is now available for some high maternal value beef sires, enabling producers to breed their own superior replacement heifers. Using AI sires to breed replacements also removes the need to replace stock bulls when it’s time to serve their daughters.
Although using AI can seem like more work than simply running a stock bull, there are numerous suckler herds across the country that are doing it successfully, both with the use of synchronisation programmes and from observing natural heats. Everyone I have spoken to that is using AI would now never look back, as the quality of calves coming through far outweighs the bit of extra management required to get cows in calf. They also say they are better than those from any stock bull they could afford to buy.
Funding is available until March 2020 to suckler producers with 30 or more breeding females, with 50% of the course cost covered by AHDB Beef & Lamb.

This work fits in with our 2017-2020 strategy and one of our priorities is driving greater on-farm uptake of superior genetics by increasing the use and understanding of estimated breeding values. Enabling producers to perform AI on farm means they have the potential to improve profitability by increasing the genetic potential of their herd.
Hear first-hand from James Shouler, a suckler producer from Oxfordshire, who attended a course in 2017. In this short video he talks about the benefits of being able to perform AI on his herd.
I also ran a webinar looking at the practicalities of Artificial Insemination and synchronisation in the suckler herd last March, which you can watch on our YouTube channel.
Funding is also be available to final year agriculture students who can demonstrate how they will use the skills gained on the course in their future career.
Any students applying for funding should download and complete a short application form and return it to

For more information, including how to book on a course, see