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The Complete Guide to Artificial Insemination and Natural Service in Cattle

Artificial insemination and natural service are two different techniques that are used to reproduce offspring in animals. Let’s know more about the two types of reproduction in cattle.

Aarushi Chadha
Artificial insemination is a common method to reproduce animals on farm
Artificial insemination is a common method to reproduce animals on farm

Artificial insemination (AI) or natural service are two methods of reproduction in the breeding of farm cattle. Cattle farmers have traditionally employed natural service (NS) breeding (live bulls breeding cows when they naturally display heat), and it is still the most common approach among cow-calf producers. 

Artificial insemination was modernized in the 1930s and 1940s; it is frequently used in dairy cattle but is utilized considerably less in beef cattle due to handling and labor costs. Let's know about these two methods in-depth.

What is natural service?

Natural service in animal husbandry is a common method used to reproduce animals on the farm. Natural service still remains one of the most popular methods of breeding. In this process, the bull and the cow are allowed to mate when they are naturally in heat. Therefore, natural service is considered the mating of cattle by natural means. Farmers around the world still prefer natural services because they believe that the pregnancy rates are higher when a bull is used instead of artificial insemination.

What is artificial insemination?

Artificial insemination is another common method to reproduce animals on farms. It involves procuring semen from a male and then introducing it into the female reproductive tract when the female is in heat. By adopting artificial insemination, farmers reduce the instances of both genital and non-genital diseases in the farm stock.

Why is artificial insemination preferred over natural service?

As discussed before, artificial insemination reduces the spread of genital or non-genial diseases in the farm stock. In cattle reproduction management, it has been observed that bulls are capable of spreading sexually transmitted diseases, such as vibriosis and trichomoniasis, which can make cows infertile for some period and even lead to miscarriage if a fetus has been conceived.

Artificial insemination also gives the breeders the option to choose the healthiest sire that can transmit desirable traits to the next generation. This method of breeding reduces the cost and danger associated with maintaining bulls on a farm. Bulls have a tendency to become really aggressive and can lead to fatal accidents if not properly controlled. The semen collected can be stored and transported to different locations for insemination.

Why is natural service preferred over artificial insemination?

There are many costs associated with artificial insemination. For instance, the costs involved in artificial insemination include labour charges, semen charges, technician changes, and pharmaceuticals. Artificial insemination also requires a lot of special equipment and well-trained operators. Due to the lack of accessibility to these tools and operators, along with the extra charges associated with artificial insemination, many rural farmers prefer using natural services. 

 However, while natural breeding is more cost-effective than artificial insemination, studies have shown that in developed countries artificial insemination has improved reproductive performance, herd genetics, and calf performance. It has reduced the risk of disease transmission and increased the number of offspring that are bred from a superior parent.

Signs of heat in cattle:

Natural service and artificial insemination methods can have low conception rates if the farmer doesn’t detect the heat period properly. Let’s see the signs of heat in cattle-

  • The animal will start licking other animals and smelling them.

  • The frequency of urination will increase in the animal.

  • The tail will be raised.

  • The animal will seem more excited, restless, or nervous than before.

  • The animal will not eat as much as they use to.

  • Milk production will decrease in a lactating cow.

  • The vulva will appear swollen.

  • Mucous discharge from the vulva will also be observed.

Methods of Semen Collection:

There are many methods of semen procurement for artificial intelligence-

  • An artificial vagina is used to collect semen. This is the most common method of procurement as it is the safest for the collector.

  • Electro-simulation is another method of collection.

After the semen is collected, it is frozen and can be stored indefinitely.

Insemination Methods:

  • Recto-vaginal method- The unfrozen semen is deposited through the vulva to the vagina and cervix.

  • Spectrum method- in this method, a spectrum is placed in the vagina of the cow and the insemination tube deposits the semen at the cervix.

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