Teaching cervical or vaginal artificial insemination of sheep (DRAFT)
The Animal Research Act 1985 and Regulation 2005 control the use of animals in teaching. People organising schools to teach others techniques such as intra-cervical artificial insemination in sheep, therefore must:
- hold an Animal Research Authority
- be approved by an Animal Ethics Committees (AEC) for each technique where they intend to use animals
- comply with their AEC approval, the legislation and the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes
These guidelines have been written for AECs considering applications for the teaching of intra-cervical artificial insemination of sheep.
Artificial Insemination Schools
To teach participants how to collect fresh semen from rams and place diluted semen in the most appropriate part of the female's genital organs to maximise subsequent conception.
Alternatives to animal use for teaching:
Students must receive prior instruction on the anatomy and physiology of the genitalia of both rams and ewes (slides and videos may be appropriate). The technique must be practised where feasible on abattoir specimens and/or an "artificial ewe" prior to use of live animals.
Details of procedure
There should be at least one instructor per ten students.
Ewes must be individually identified by ear tag or other permanent marking prior to use in a school.
Only mature, in oestrus, ewes may be used. Animals under 15 months of age or undersized animals should not be used. They do not need to have had a lamb but should be sexually mature. Ewes must be in good body condition and good general health as assessed by a competent Veterinarian.
Only non-pregnant ewes should be used. An accurate history of NO mixing with rams must be available, or ewes must be pregnancy tested prior to the commencement of instruction. Ewes showing vaginal discharge (other than oestrus discharge) should not be used. The oestrus status of ewes used for instruction is significant. More successful penetration of the cervix is possible in oestrus ewes.
The ewes must be restrained as per current industry standards, with hind legs over a rail of suitable height to prevent lateral or forward movement,
Mature, sexually active rams should be used. Rams must be in good body condition and free from genetic defects and in good health as assessed by a competent Veterinarian.
Rams do not need to be previously trained to collection for artificial insemination, as techniques to train rams for collection should be part of the instruction.
An industry recognised artificial vagina will be used with appropriate lubrication and at the industry recommended temperature.
Equipment should be disinfected or a new liner used between each collection.
Any single ram will be collected a maximum of 10 times over a three day period, or a maximum 4 times per day with suitable recovery times between each collection. Rams may need supplementary feeding during the period of a school if they are maintained in yards or a shed during the period of collections.
To facilitate the procedure and promote the safety of both animals and operators, teaser ewes should be experienced in the process of semen collection. They should be appropriately stimulated to bring them into oestrus for the purpose. Teaser ewes will be appropriately restrained to prevent them moving excessively, to avoid injury to the ewe or ram during collection procedures. The floor of the collection area must be non-slip with sufficient space in the pen to allow the restrained ewe, the ram to be collected and the operator to fit and work, without risk of injury.
Teaser wethers will be required to detect ewes in oestrus for the purposes of collection of semen and for training in the techniques of insemination. Suitable wethers will need to be treated with an androgen such as testosterone to stimulate them to seek out and mark ‘in oestrus’ ewes.
Drugs, chemicals and biological agents
If ewes in natural oestrus are unavailable, drugs will be needed to stimulate teaser ewes and ewes for the training procedure to come into oestrus. Teaser wethers will be required to detect ‘in oestrus’ ewes for both procedures. These drugs in the applicator devices may be restricted to prescription by a registered veterinarian. Testosterone products used for this purpose are specifically proscribed and may only be provided for the purpose by a registered veterinarian. Nominated records of such use must be maintained.
Obstetrical lubricant or similar product should be used to provide lubrication.
Impact of the procedure on the wellbeing of animal(s)
Repeated and/or inexpert practice of the procedures may result in severe straining, with possible bleeding /and/or discharge from the vagina, vulva or cervix of the ewe. Some (not necessarily all) of the conditions to be observed and possible stages of risk are listed:
(a) Ewe handling
- sponge implantation / withdrawal
- heat detection
- drafting / catching
- restraint over rail
(b) Sponge - insertion / withdrawal
(c) Speculum - placement and opening
(d) Pipette - placement / withdrawal
During the insemination process it is the responsibility of the supervising teachers to check the cervix and vagina of each ewe prior to the removal of the speculum and to check the point of the pipettes used for signs of blood. If blood is noticed at any time during any procedure, the ewe involved will be withdrawn immediately. Appropriate antibiotic treatment will be given with close observation for some time after treatment.
Only insemination equipment which will minimise potentially dangerous or harmful effects on the animals should be used.
Reuse and repeated use
No ewe should be subjected to more than three (3) attempts to achieve satisfactory semen deposition. The number of each ewe used will be recorded with each attempt. Once three (3) attempts (successful or otherwise) are recorded, the ewe will be replaced. Sufficient ewes will be available relevant to the number of students to allow this policy to be followed while still allowing students to achieve competence.
Care of animal(s) during/after procedure
1. During the school
Ewes showing any sign of distress during a school must be removed from the school.
Any ewe showing any discharge including bleeding, should be withdrawn immediately and not used until veterinary clearance has been given. In the unusual event that an animal displays evidence of pain or distress, appropriate treatment measures should be implemented.
2. After the school
Ewes should be checked twice daily for the first two days after a school and once daily for a further 5 days. Records must be kept for individual ewes of the incidence of discharge, other abnormal event or behaviour, or any treatment administered. Appropriate veterinary advice will be sought for any affected animals.
An autopsy must be performed on any ewe that dies unexpectedly following a school and the supervising AEC informed of the results as soon as practicable.
Pain relief measures
Normally, none required.
Qualifications, experience, skills necessary to perform this procedure
Demonstrator: Instruction in insemination technique will only be provided by a suitably qualified veterinarian or instructor approved by an AEC.
Students: Experience in sheep handling. Familiarity with anatomy/physiology, competence using abattoir specimens and other alternatives.
An Annual Report is to be submitted to the supervising AEC which should list for each school held, the number of animals used, the number of students participating, the number of instructors and any problems encountered including injuries to animals.
This guideline has been developed by Dr Steve Atkinson and Mr Warren Nancarrow.
Animal Research Review Panel Guideline 19