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A Look at Making Babies Through Artificial Insemination

by Roger and Laurie Pietrowski
Date Posted: 01-01-2010

This article is intended to get you thinking about artificial insemination. This will not be “The Bible,” and is
intended only to give the reader an overview of the process. There is more than one way to skin a cat and this is one of those ways. After reading this do more research and see if this is for you.

First lets look at why artificial insemination. ( A/I ) It’s the cheapest and least risky way of improving your breeding program. If you don’t have a buck that scores high enough for the breeding program you want to have you either have to buy one or use A/I.  Buying a breeder can run tens of thousands of dollars only to have him die before the breeding season. If you are lucky and he doesn’t die, you now have one buck to do your breeding. Why limit yourself to that one buck?   A/I allows you to use several bucks in the same year. You can pick and choose a buck specific to each doe.

A/I costs relatively little in comparison to buying a breeder buck. There are doctors who travel around in fall
doing A/I or you can take a class and try it yourself. (We would recommend both the first year.) The supplies are inexpensive and the semen can be as much or as little as you like.  Prices run from $200 per straw up to thousands of dollars per straw. Plus, just about any buck you would like to use for breeding is available through semen.

With the borders of many states closed to the movement of live deer, A/I is a way of improving your breeding or just bringing in new unrelated bloodlines. Studies have shown no ability of C.W.D to carry through semen leaving it the safest way to add great genetics to your herd.

I am sure many of you have heard the saying, “it costs just as much to feed good stock as it does to feed junk.” It is true. With times as they are no one needs to be feeding lesser quality deer. Hunt preserves are in need of large, high scoring bucks. A/I can put you in a position to have those bucks available for the hunt preserve near you.

Things to look for when buying semen:

Who collected and processed the semen?  It should be done by a professional. Self collectors and self
processors would make me very nervous.

Where is it being stored and how will I be able to get it?  The shipping of semen is really quite simple. Most
places will ship it to you in their container or you can rent one locally and send it to the storage place. They will then charge the tank with nitrogen and put your semen in for shipping back to you. Just plan ahead as timing is critical. When the doe is ready she is ready now.

Shipping costs?  Those costs can vary depending on how far it’s being shipped.

What is “good” semen?  A straw of semen should be 50 million sperm count per straw. Anything less could be a waste of time and money.

What size of straw -  1/2 cc or 1/4 cc?  The jury is still out as to what size of straw is considered best. But the one critical point is that whatever size straw you buy is the size of straw you are prepared for. The gun that the straw goes into during the A/I process and the straw you have bought MUST be the same size. That is what counts.

What if I don’t use all the semen I bought right away?  If you planned on breeding 10 does and only 9 are what you actually do, the extra straw will be alright as long as it remains in the nitrogen tank. You will need to keep it frozen. Just send it to a breeding service near you and pay them to store it for next year.

If I am planning on breeding 10 does how many straws should I have on hand? No one likes to spend money and have it tied up sitting in a tank not being used. But I prefer to buy extra straws so I have a spare on hand.   Occasionally a straw can “pop” while being thawed. If this happens the semen is ruined. If you don’t have a back up straw to use the doe wont be bred for the year, or you will have to let the back up buck have her.

What is a back up buck? After performing the A/I put the does in a pen separate from all other deer. After a period of time you can put a back up buck in with the does. He will then breed any does that were unsuccessfully A/Ied. This back up buck should not be put into the pen until at least a week or two has passed. We like 15 to 20 days after the A/I process.

Will using a back up buck cause a decrease in A/I success? Some believe this to be true, but we have found no evidence of this. We believe if a doe is left to settle for 15 days she either is bred from the A/I or never was. Our rate of success has not changed from using a back up buck.

What does it cost to store semen?  Pennies. It is very cheap to store semen. Most times you will pay a minimum for storage due to not having that high of quantities of straws.

In the fall of 2001, we had the fortune of helping Gary Nelson of Wild Rivers Whitetails with the process of semen collection and artificial insemination. At that time, we met Dr. Mike Bringans of Quebec, Canada. A very nice gentleman, and an expert in A/I. He works on big projects with Pat Cooper of Wild-N-Wooly Acres in Hopedale, Ohio. The following spring Gary Nelson had a fawn crop of 85% success. A rate unheard of in A/I. From that experience, we decided to get involved ourselves.

In the fall of 2002, we did A/I at our farm on five does with Dr. Bringans here to supervise. The following spring in 2003, we had four of the five does have fawns at a rate of 80%.  Gary Nelson had a rate of approximately 75% for the spring of 2003. Since this time we have done all our own a/i work here at our place and have done a number of other farms in the area as well. Our rate of success continues to be around 80% each year. This rate does include yearling does as well. We have found no problems A/Iing first time mothers.

Below is an outline of the process we did at our place.

Things you will need:

Semen - frozen or fresh. If you are close by a farm that has a buck you would like to use and they are collecting when you are A/I’ing using fresh semen is an option.
Items you will have to go through your Veterinarian for:
CIDRs (Controlled Internal Drug Release)  
CIDR gun
Biomycin (antibiotic)
PMSG (Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotrophin) This is a hormone.
Sterile water (saline)
Check farm supply catalogs for these items:
French gun
french gun sheaths
straw cutters or scissors
water bath
Speculum - large and small
Vircon or similar cleanser
semen forceps
Place such as fleet farm or supply catalogs for:
sterile gloves
syringes and needles
pen light
KY Jelly (lubricant)
hot water
paper towels

So you have decided to try artificial insemination.  Here we go...

Pick a date that you want the does to give birth.  Normal gestation for fawns is 200 days.  Now that you have a date picked, back it up 14 days and start the process.  Example: To have fawns born on May 30th count back 214 days. This is the day you will insert the CIDR, starting the process. You can run the doe into a handling facility or tranquilize them.  Once you have them were you can work with the doe, use the CIDR gun with KY jelly on the tip to insert the CIDR into the vagina of the doe.  Lift up the doe’s tail and insert the CIDR first at an upward angle to get past the pelvis bone and then push level into the deer pushing the plunger of the CIDR gun and inserting the CIDR so the plastic tail is still visible once the gun is removed.  The CIDR stays in the doe for 14 days.  After those 14 days, bring the doe in again, grab the plastic tail of the CIDR and pull it out.  If you don’t see the tail of the CIDR, push apart the vulva and see if it is inside the deer.  Always use sterile gloves and KY jelly for lubricant.  Once in a while, the deer will pull the CIDR out on their own but not very often.  If that has happened, it does not pay to try and A/I the deer.  Once the CIDR is removed, give the doe 8cc of Biomycin in the muscle and 150 I.U of PMSG in the neck muscle.  The PMSG comes in a powder form and needs to be reconstituted with saline or sterile water.  (For example, if the PMSG is 200IU add 1cc water and use 3/4 cc to get 150IU.)   56-65 hours later the doe will be ready to A/I.  Bring her into your facility again.    

Make sure the water bath is between 90-95 degrees.  Try and keep the french gun warm until you are ready to use it.  Have the semen tank and semen accessible.  Remove one straw of semen from the semen tank using a semen forceps.  (Do Not pull the remaining straws of semen all the way out of the AI tank because you don’t want them thawing early.)  Put the straw you want to use in the water bath for 45 seconds.  Remove the straw from the water bath after 45 seconds and dry it thoroughly.  Water will kill semen.  Using the scissors or the straw cutter cut the semen straw to remove the PVC sealed end - not the cotton plug end - and make sure the straw is rounded where it was cut.  Put the straw into the french gun.  Put a sheath over the french gun and semen straw.  Push the plunger of the french gun far enough to get rid of air in the straw.  Keep the semen and french gun warm until ready to insert into the doe. Tucking it into your jacket is a good place.  Insert the correct size speculum, larger for older does and small one for yearlings and smaller does, into the doe’s vagina.  Light the opening with the pen light so you can see.  Push the speculum in until you see the rosebud and push a little further until you see the rosebud open.  Take the french gun and insert the end of it into the open rosebud.  Move any mucus out of the way with the end of the french gun - the mucus acts as a natural spermicide and should be removed within reason.  Once the french gun tip is inside the rosebud, pull the speculum back about half way to allow the vagina to close around the gun, and push the plunger of the gun in to put the semen inside the rosebud. Remove the french gun.  A/I is complete.  Clean the equipment with the Vircon or other disinfectant
and dry completely.  Start over with the next doe.

This gives you a look at the basics of A/I and now maybe you will give this a try. It can be rewarding watching fawns run around knowing you had a part in it. Good luck this next breeding season!