The process of artificial insemination (AI) in cows and other livestock is where the semen that has been previously collected from the male of choice is deposited into the uterus of the female near the time of ovulation. With advances in AI and genetic technologies, the practice of artificial insemination is becoming more common in commercial livestock enterprises.
Embryo transfer (ET) is used in livestock to maximise the genetic potential of elite females in a herd or flock. When females are naturally mated or even AI, they are limited to the amount of offspring they can have in a lifetime. With ET, the amount of offspring that can be achieved from elite females and sires is maximised.
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) technology has been used in livestock for many years. Livestock breeders can gain benefits in genetic improvement which are similar to ET systems. That is, breeders are able to maximise the genetic gain from the dam whilst using their sire of choice.
The vast majority of the Australian beef herd is naturally mated. Traditionally, the extensive nature of many Australian beef operations, and the lack of a unified genetic improvement scheme, have both contributed to this static. The use of natural mating in the Australian dairy herd is rather low, with only 16% of herds using natural mating as their only reproduction management strategy.