Artificial Insemination

A Mainstay in the Deer Industry

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

Ask Lisa Sheffield-Rowe what she thinks about laparoscopic (lap) artificial insemination and she’ll say “it’s just the way to go. Period.” Rowe, 36, has been immersed in almost every facet of the deer industry in her 13 years in the business, including working for multiple veterinarians during the A.l. seasons as well as Sexing Technologies. Those years of experience have led her to stand by her belief that money, time, and effort is saved by simply going lap A.I.

Today, as manager of Poverty Canyon Whitetails, a 2,300-acre ranch with 400 deer in Tennyson, Texas, she oversees every facet of its daily operations. This includes keeping track of babies in the summer and knowing each doe’s conception rate and previous production. Therefore, when she plans the fall breeding season, she knows exactly which does are going back into or will be incorporated into her A.I. breeding program come November 20th. It‘s quite the scientific process to ready a specific herd of does, as Rowe can attest to. Although she doesn’t consider herself an A.l. expert, anyone lucky enough to apprentice under her would come away with a clear head start in the learning process.

“It’s the biggest deal of the entire year," Rowe said. “Your pen set up needs to allow you the ability to move your girls quickly with the least amount of stress put on them. Make sure you have plenty of help when the veterinarian arrives and follow their synchronization process to a ‘T’” In this year’s program, Rowe will implant CIDRS in her selected does on October 31st. These contain progesterone that halt their heat cycle. On November 17th starting at 11 p.m., these does will be run through a chute to pull the CIDRS and start the synchronization period. This continues at 20 does per hour until they are all pulled. At this time each doe is injected with PMSG, a pregnant mare serum which is designed to bring them all into heat at the same allotted time per group, to start the A.l. process at 9 a.m. on November 20th. Synchronized with their natural rut season, this system is essentially fail proof, if the management is done in order to pull it off. Then when the A.I. doctor or professional arrives at your farm for the procedures, all should go according to plan.”

“The easiest thing to do if your girls don't have babies in the summer is to blame the A.I. guy,” Rowe said “But the actual A.I. process is only ONE factor in a person’s breeding program. Herd management throughout the entire year has to be top notch to minimalize stress and disease outbreaks. Nutrition and the health of the animals is also key.” Not only that, your semen straws used in the procedure have to be viable, handled correctly, and kept at the right temperature so that no sperm die or lose their motility or vitality. According to Rowe a good conception rate is about 75%.

Given that the overall A.l. process is very well planned out, lengthy and very time-consuming, isn‘t it just easier to turn all your deer out together and let Mother Nature run its course? “Not if you want to put babies on the ground that you can sell,” Rowe said. Farmers who may only breed the natural way might have a sterile buck and could potentially not realize it until the following summer when no babies have arrived, therefore losing an entire season and perhaps a chance to make some decent money. In addition, a buck that's “running around" breeding 30 does will wear himself out, and perhaps not reach his full antler growth potential, Rowe emphasized.

Semen straws collected from bucks can be split two to three ways through A.I. allowing your investment to go farther. By contrast, deer bred cervically use an entire straw for this endeavor. Either procedure allows deer farmers the ability to produce some of the best deer in the industry and to have a profitable operation, in spite of the time and costs incurred with A.I. preparations and procedures.

“At the end of the day you want a herd that gives you consistent production for both the breeding and the hunting market," Rowe said.

Lisa’s email address: