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Artificial Insemination In Animals

Insemigen and Insemin8 Enhancing future generations of animal breeding

In the 1940s, scientists developed a revolutionary technique to fertilise animals without the need for physical mating between the male and female: artificial insemination (AI). AI is the collection of semen from a male and subsequent deposit of that semen into the vagina or cervix of a female, by any other method than sexual intercourse. Semen is usually deposited in the female reproductive tract by using a catheter, which is a long, sterile tube that is inserted into the vagina or cervix, and used to deposit semen in the correct place for fertilisation.

AI provides innumerable benefits over ‘natural’ mating. It completely eliminates any risk of injury, infection or stress for both male and female animals, and provides an infinitely safer working environment for humans and veterinarians. Further, the use of AI allows breeders to select the very best animal genetics from across the world; they can select and purchase semen from males they could never afford to own. Additionally, genetic diversity can be improved due to the removal of any geographic limitations. For instance, a farmer in the UK can now select semen from a Bull in Australia, ship it to the UK for use on his herd, whereas it would never be physically viable to travel the Bull to the UK to inseminate the females via natural mating.

Today, semen and ova (eggs) are widely traded for all sorts of animals. The predominant industries are focused on:

  • Food production – breeding healthy, high-yielding animals
  • Breeding prize-winning animals for showing, sports, racing and competitions
  • Breeding healthier pets and companion animals
  • Breeding rare or endangered species

Demand for animal protein is increasing exponentially. Current protein demand for the 7.3 billion inhabitants of the world is approximately 202 million tonnes globally, and the global animal protein market is predicted to reach $58.50 Billion by 2027.

Currently, AI is used for the breeding and production of high-value sports horses, and high-value racing camels.

The annual economic value of the combined sport horse/equestrian, horseracing and breeding industries in Europe is €52.1 billion per annum, while the global equine artificial insemination market size was valued at USD 636.10 million in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.80% from 2023 to 2030.

Similarly, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), prized racing camels can sell for tens of millions of dollars. The cost of producing a cloned camel is currently around USD $55,000, and the technology for AI in this species is well established.

The use of AI is being rapidly adopted by pet and companion animal breeders, and is set to grow exponentially. Pet ownership is a globally growing phenomenon: the global pet market is expected to reach USD 202.6 billion by 2025, driven by the rise in demand for pets and associated pet-care products. In the United Kingdom, 59% of households own a pet, with cats and dogs being the most popular British pets. The buying and selling of canine semen has been commonplace in the UK since the mid-2000s, and is a significant and rapidly growing sector.

AI is now commonly used in dog breeding, and allows breeders to select the very best males for their breeding programme and to improve the health of their puppies, irrespective of the geographical location of the male.

Cryobanking (long-term frozen storage of semen and ova) has recently been applied to the conservation of rare and endangered species. By cryopreserving semen and ova, scientists are reserving the option to supplement breeding programmes in the future, to support the long-term survival and conservation of rare and endangered species.

“I turned down a world-record sale price of £1.23 million for my bull. I’m in no rush to sell him, given that I earn over £30,000 a month from selling his semen on its own.”

~ Karamvir Singh, Indianj Murrah buffalo farmer

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