12 September 1997

Abattoir based DIY AI training is best

DIY AI training based at an abattoir rather than on farm will increase conception rates by 3.7% for every days training with live cows.

In fact, number of abattoir based training days is the only factor influencing DIY AI success. Whether the herd is block calving or the operator attends a refresher course, for example, has little impact on final inseminator success.

That was the result of a postal questionnaire carried out by Yorks vet Mark Howells of Four Dales Vet Practice, Helmsley. Data related to 14,258 inseminations performed in the first three years after training by 94 herdspersons/farmers carrying out DIY AI.

Mr Howells attributed success after abattoir-based training to the ability to evaluate the technique, something that was unavailable on farm. At abattoirs reproductive tracts inseminated with straws filled with a coloured dye can be recovered from cows so distribution of inseminate can be assessed.

Although, for welfare reasons, he believed novice inseminators should not practice on cows unless they are to be slaughtered on the training day, the financial benefits of the abattoir training are also persuasive.

Results suggest training in an abattoir with access to live cows for five days – as required by legislation – would ensure a conception rate to all services 18.4% higher in the first year compared with that achieved by operators trained only on farm.

Mr Howells compared the effects on reproductive performance and financial implications for a hypothetical 100-cow herd in which oestrus detection was 100%, average gestation length 280 days, calving to first service interval 65 days, and which had a management policy allowing six inseminations a cow before culling as barren.

For abattoir-trained operators working at 68.4% conception rate, compared with 50% for the farm trained operator, calving index would be shortened by nine days, semen use reduced by 52 straws, and two cows would be saved from culling.

Assuming each culled cow costs £770 to replace (£1540), each day added £3 a cow to the calving index (£2700), and that average semen price is £10 a straw (£520), improvement in calving rate would be worth £4670 after the first year of inseminations.

The figures give no value to the labour savings from spending less time on oestrus detection and serving cows.

Mr Howells findings show there is little extra benefit, however, after three days abattoir training.

He recommended that operators should take a refresher course after six months, and that all those working with block calving herds should take a refresher course before the next breeding season.

But for those with year round calving herds there was no real need to undergo any more training provided fertility results were satisfactory. &#42

Mark Howells… Abattoir based DIY AI training is worth almost an extra £5000.