How to Start AI (Artificial Insemination)

by Guinevere McIntyre

Raise your hand if you ever inquired about the possibility of ordering semen straws and storing them in the freezer…yep, my hand is up. I hope the people you contacted were as kind as the gent at Chateau Briant dairy goats in Maine who let me know that I really did need a tank, and a kit, etc. I also asked one of our local vets if he could do an AI for us and he said he didn’t think he could get his hand up there. (Yes, anyone who has helped a difficult kidding knows that is possible, but if anyone’s hand is up there for an AI, something has gone seriously out of whack! Really, it would never happen.)

So all that did hold up my venture into AI for a few years, and honestly, that was a good idea as I was able to watch heat cycles and in general get to a greater comfort level with my goat husbandry.

Getting started with AI is easy and incredibly fun and exciting with all the possibilities it opens up for your herd. There’s just a few things you will need to invest in, or have access to:

A semen tank
A liquid nitrogen supplier
An AI kit
A class with a good teacher
Semen straws

THE TANK: There are many options on the market, new and used. A new tank will be pricier but may be more efficient/require fewer fillings of liquid nitrogen throughout a year. I use a good sturdy used tank that I refill every 6 to 8 weeks for about $17.

You may be lucky enough to have someone near you with space in their tank – this could be another goat person, but also someone with cattle, or your liquid nitrogen supplier. If you are doing a lot of AI, it is much easier to have a tank on your own property.

THE LIQUID NITROGEN SUPPLIER: If your tank runs dry (runs out of liquid nitrogen), the potential of all those goat daddies in there just disappears. So it is very important to stay on top of this. If you’re like me, you may not know of any suppliers as a newbie to AI…ask around, again, with goat people, cattle people, your vet, and especially at feed stores. Some will come to your house on a schedule – mine lives near me and I just pop over for a refill.

THE AI KIT: If you’re going to take a class, it can be best to buy your kit through them, as then you will have the same equipment they are using for demonstration. You can assemble the components of a kit separately, but often the kit includes useful items you might not think to add, all in a handy container.

THE AI CLASS: Not necessary but highly recommended. As my mentor said, you can just buy a kit and read the instructions. They do come with instructions. I took a class also and learned SO much more, so I don’t know how things would have gone with the instructions-only approach, perhaps just fine. My 2-day class with Bio-Genics was really excellent.  IDGA has also offered a fantastic one-day hands-on practical clinic, and plans are always in the works for more.

IDGA posts AI clinics, classes, and workshops in the central Midwest area on our Regional Events Calendar. If you see one is happening, my advice is to go if you possibly can, as they can be few and far between.

SEMEN STRAWS: There are many possibilities for getting some frozen daddies for your goats – in getting started, you may know someone nearby who would be willing to sell you a few straws. Researching bucks and purchasing semen is fun and, believe me, addictive – you can end up with PLENTY of options in your tank fairly quickly! You can purchase semen through the various goat collection agencies, such as Bio-Genics above, or:

Hawkeye Breeders is in Adel, IA, just outside Des Moines. You also can purchase straws directly from breeders. Sales are often held through the various yahoo chat groups or Come to the Farm. This will require the use of a vapor shipper which is another chunk of money unless your liquid nitrogen supplier or a friend can loan you one.

Yes, there is more to AI. This is just a “Getting Started” page, but it does give you everything you need to know to get going. There are countless bits of advice on how to do a successful AI, but most importantly, follow the directions carefully every time, from your class or from the AI kit.

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