Even though you may have calving and velveting on your mind, it is not too early to begin planning your artificial insemination program for this upcoming fall.
Let's review why you may want to consider A.I. for your deer does and elk cows.
1. Access to superior genetics - the market pays a premium for superior animals. Thus you can increase the profitability of your operations. As the numbers of deer and elk continue to grow, the market will become even more competitive. Ordinary or inferior stock will not be as profitable.
2. Greater convenience - with A.I. you can breed your does and cows to the best without having to worry about logistical problems of moving live animals.
According to Kevin Moore, there are four factors involved in the management of an effective A.I. program.
1. Semen quality - there is not much you can do about this except have faith that the collection was done right. However, do stick to buying from known and reputable breeders that use experienced and qualified technicians.
2. Technical ability - you do not need a veterinarian to do the artificial insemination, but you do need to have someone who knows what he/she is doing.
3. Female selection - you need to select your best female as per tips given below.
4. Female preparation - you should prepare your selected does or cows prior to artificial insemination.
In terms of selecting breeding stock for your A.I. program, reject females that fit the following criteria:
a. Have experienced birthing problems
b. Are difficult to handle
c. Have been poor mothers in the past
d. Have health problems
e. Are in poor condition
f. Are nursing their first calf or fawn
g. If you are at all unsure whether they should be included.
A good reason to select a female is that they have the desired genetic background and do not have any of the problems identified above.
Once the females have been selected for your A.I. program, they need to be prepared. This involves the following:
a. Nutrition - wean fawns or calves, increase rations to females and deworm.
b. Social structure - put into breeding groups as soon as possible so that the social structure gets established; once done, do not mix the animals.
c. Familiarity - get the females familiar with the facility; run them through several times and give them a treat. This will reduce their stress which negatively affects fertility.
The conception success rate should be 65% to 70%. You may want to have a back-up buck or bull in place to ensure that the females produce young.
Also remember that the pass down of desired traits is never 100%. In fact with deer and elk it is quite low. Therefore if you are breeding to a 230 B&C buck, don't expect that all his offspring will have a similar rack - a few may and most won't. However, an effective A.I. program is still the best way to improve the quality of your herd.