Understanding the Laparoscopic Artificial Insemination Process
The basic premise of artificial insemination (AI) is to use semen collected from elite bucks or rams to breed females by artificial means. Although simplistic in concept, the actual process requires training and considerable practice. With small ruminants, good estrus synchronization along with the ability to bypass the cervix allows for excellent success rates.
Considering that the average goat estrus cycle is approximately 21 days (range of 18-23 days) and a sheep’s estrus cycle is approximately 17 days (15-19 days), detecting heat for a large group of animals can be quite difficult. For this reason, we elect to synchronize these females using CIDRs and prostaglandins to allow multiple females to be receptive within a certain time frame. This allows producers to breed a larger number of animals in a short window, which can help shorten the kidding/lambing season for these animals.
Laparoscopic Artificial Insemination
Laparoscopic artificial Insemination in small ruminants is a minimally invasive, surgical process that allows us to bypass the cervix and evaluate the reproductive tract in real time using a specialized camera. In sheep especially, the cervix is known to be extremely tortuous and it is relatively impossible to timely effectively pass completely into the uterus in a timely manner. Also, the inability to palpate these animals per rectum prohibits the technician’s ability to manipulate the tract like our bovine and equine counterparts. During the procedure, the animals are lightly sedated and two small incisions are made in the abdominal wall. The technician evaluates the tract for tone and color while the lab technician thaws and evaluates the semen. With exceptional semen quality, we are even able to extend that straw, in some cases, to breed multiple animals as opposed to one animal per straw. This is feasible due to the decreased transit time required since the semen is deposited within the uterine horn lumen as opposed to traveling through the vagina, cervix, and into the lumen of the uterus. Once the process has been completed, the incisions are closed with skin staples and the animal is allowed to recover under supervision.