Why is Artificial Insemination (AI) used in dairy?

Artificial insemination is used in the dairy industry to take advantage of the best genetics, to benefit animal health, and to support the safety of people who work on farms.

Last updated 17/01/2024

Artificial Insemination (AI) has a range of benefits to dairy farmers, such as providing access to the best genetics, supporting animal health and the safety of people who work on farms.

AI enables farmers to access the best bull (male) genetics from all across the globe. Farmers want to improve the production, health traits, fertility and longevity of their dairy cattle by using a balanced approach to breeding.

Animal health is also improved through the use of AI. Straws of semen collected from AI bulls are carefully screened for infectious diseases which may otherwise be transmitted from bulls to cows through natural breeding. AI bulls are also monitored for genetic mutations which may cause congenital malformations. By understanding the pedigree and genetic composition of these bulls, farmers are also able to supervise matings in a way that reduces inbreeding and selects for improved welfare traits, such as cows that do not grow horns.

The safety of people who work on farms is also important and can be benefited by the use of AI. Bulls can be dangerous to keep on-farm and require special care to handle. Teams of bulls must be managed carefully to ensure that their social hierarchy is stable before allowing them into the herd. Bulls can also be damaging to cow health if not carefully managed, especially during wet weather on slippery surfaces. Although some farmers use bulls with their cows after a short AI period, others do not due to concerns for the safety of staff and family.

Artificial insemination usually involves detecting female cows that are on 'heat'. Once identified, these cows are inseminated by a trained farmer or professional AI technician who perform the technique ensuring minimum discomfort for the cow.

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