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2023 Jubilee Scholars

Amelia Preston, Beacon YFC

Amelia Preston received the Worshipful Company of Farmers' Jubilee Scholarship Award in 2023. She completed a Defra-approved ‘DIY’ artificial insemination course with RAFT Solutions Ltd/Bishopton Veterinary Group in north Yorkshire and shares her experience.

Having worked on a dairy farm part-time for nearly six years the DIY AI course felt like the next step to further my understanding of dairy herd management and advance my practical skills.

The first day of training consisted of a mix of classroom and practical learning led by an experienced farm vet named Jonathan.

The morning session covered the key legislation, licence rules and regulations associated with DIY AI which is an essential part of the course as directed by Defra. We then went on to study the key reproductive anatomy of the cow, the oestrus cycle and watched an informative video on heat detection. It was interesting to note that a cow or heifer should be served 12 hours following a standing heat to ensure that the sperm is in the oviduct at the point of ovum release, to maximise the likelihood of fertilisation and successful pregnancy.

Amelia Preston

This session was very useful and emphasised the importance of effective heat observation as a dairy stockperson which is something I have improved when in my role on-farm. I also work with several younger members of staff and I have tried to help them understand why effective heat detection is important.

In a practical session we learnt how to effectively prepare the AI ‘gun’ to ensure maximum sperm survival before experimenting with AI gun placement in reproductive tracts taken from an abattoir. The purpose of this session was to understand the ‘feel’ of the cervix which has a gritty sensation and to find correct placement within the body of the uterus having passed through the folds of the cervix.

We repeatedly prepared the AI gun to cement our knowledge of the process, our practical skills were then tested by studying the sperm we had prepared under a microscope to check that the majority were still alive. Aside from correct AI gun placement, sperm survival is essential for a successful pregnancy.

The second and third days of training consisted of on-farm practical training days at Carperby near Leyburn and Moor Monkton near Harrogate, where we started learning how to successful AI on cull cows.

The first attempt was the most difficult as it was hard to feel through the rectal wall and recognise the anatomy below. Eventually I was able to correctly place the AI gun through the cervix and deposit the gel our AI gun was loaded with; this then enabled the vets training us to scan and confirm that we had deposited the semen in the correct place.

Over the two days my point of improvement was to bring the AI gun back slightly as I tended to end up more toward one horn of the uterus, which could reduce conception rates should ovulation occur in the opposing horn. Therefore, the ideal situation is to deposit the semen just into the uterus body before the horns split into two, to maximise the chance of conception in either horn.

We repeated the practical for several hours and on several cows over the two days and always left with aching arms, being short I also needed a stool to assist with reaching the majority of the cows. I left the course on the third day feeling confident that I could place the AI gun in the correct place and find where I needed to be with the anatomy within the cow – even if it took me a while!

I still have a ‘refresher day’ to use as part of the training which helps to refine the technique once you have got the hang of it, I plan to complete this in the new year once I have fully got to grips with the technique and can do it fairly quickly – so far I have AI’ed several cows and recently had confirmation of a successful pregnancy in a cow that I AI-ed so I am hopeful that there will soon be some more soon and I am looking forward to seeing some of my calves on the ground!

I would like to re-iterate my thanks to the Worshipful Company of Farmers for their invaluable financial support with the course through the Jubilee Scholarship.

Find out how to apply for funding for an agri related course.