How Do You Artificially Inseminate A Turkey
Artificial insemination (AI) has become standard practice in breeding large broadbreasted turkeys. It may be used without natural mating, allowing no males with the hens at any time or it may be used to supplement natural mating, using saddles on the hens.
The former method is preferred and is widely used, the first insemination being given when egg production starts, followed 1 week later with a second insemination and after that at 2-week intervals. If and when fertility starts to decline, inseminations may be given at 1-week intervals. However, some breeders prefer a 1- week interval throughout the season.
The plastic straw method, using a clean straw for each hen, is being widely used to prevent the possible spread of infection from hen to hen. The straws, 4 to 5 inches long, are attached to the syringe or inseminating gun. Care must be taken not to injure the oviduct when the straw is inserted.
Two basic procedures are involved in AI of poultry: obtaining semen from the male (milking) and inseminating the hen. The method described here requires only simple, inexpensive equipment. More detailed information, including the use of thermos-bottle aspirators, semen metering devices, individualhen plastic straws, and diluents, will be found in other publications.*
The minimal equipment necessary for AI is a receiving container (receiver) and a 1- cubic-centimeter (cc.) or 1-milliliter (ml.) glass or plastic syringe without a needle, graduated in hundredths. The receiver may be any small round-edge glass receptacle not over 21/2 inches deep, such as a liqueur glass, a liquor jigger, a very small beaker, an eye cup, a paraffin stoppered funnel (fig. 6) or a short test tube.
In the simplest type of operation, semen from one or several males is collected in the receiver, withdravi^n into the syringe in single doses, and injected into the hens with the least possible delay. A more efficient method is to milk the semen from each of a dozen or more males for a total of 3 or 4 cc, removing each tom’s contribution from the receiver with a thermos-bottle aspirator or a syringe and depositing the contribution in a closed container immersed in water held at about 82° F. (28° C). The semen is thus protected from contamination, temperature shock, and drying.
The pooled semen is then injected into the hens with an automatic “semen gun” or a syringe equipped with a metering device. Mated toms should be separated from the
hens at least 2 days before they are milked.
Unmated toms, used regularly, can be milked every 3rd day, thus reducing the number of toms required.
To obtain semen efficiently, promote ejaculation through manual stimulation that causes the male copulatory organ to be partly extruded. The stimulation may be effected by massaging and stroking the abdomen and pushing the tail and tailhead upward towards the head. A male’s response has been obtained when the copulatory organ enlarges and partly protrudes from the vent.
The operator then takes a deep grip at the rear of the copulatory organ from above the vent with his thumb and forefinger, thus fully extruding the organ, and squeezes out the semen in a short sliding motion downward. The pressure on the rear of the copulatory organ, combined with the short sliding motion, empties the terminal bulbs of the seminiferous tubules and causes the semen to run down the depression between the two parallel teatlike structures of the copulatory organ, where it can be collected in the receiver. If feces or urine appears, brush it away before the semen is collected.
With turkey toms, only one ejaculatory response to each manipulation is the rule, but in some cases continued massage and stroking may induce a second. The toms can be massaged as long as semen can be obtained. As an aid in producing clean semen, some operators withhold feed and water from the toms for 8 to 12 hours before milking. However, with proper pressure, expert technicians are able to close off the cloacal opening, which is above the sex organ, to prevent fecal contamination.
Two operators work together to milk the toms. The first operator holds the tom on a padded table or a canvas stand or other comfortable resting place or he may hold the bird loosely by the thighs, supporting its weight on his lap or on his arm. The rear of the bird is toward the second operator, its legs slightly spread so that the abdomen is well exposed.
The second operator uses the thumb and fingers of one hand to hold the receiving container and massage the lower abdomen while he pushes the tail upward towards the bird’s head with the other hand. When the male responds to these pressures by starting to extrude his copulatory organ, the second operator forces the organ outward from the vent and milks the semen into the receiver, vi^hich he has held in readiness during the massaging.
In another method of milking, the torn may be placed breast down on a 7-inch-wide, 18-inch-high milking stool and held between the . knees of the first operator, who uses both hands alternately to massage both sides of the abdomen, starting below the vent and stroking upward toward the tail, which may be pushed upward on the completion of the stroke.
The second operator exerts a steady downward pressure on both shanks of the bird and collects the semen. The downward pressure on the shanks, the upward pressure against the tail, and the massaging of both sides of the abdomen combine to effect protrusion of the tom’s copulatory organ. When the technique is learned by practicing on toms that respond readily, work with other toms will be easier.
Turkey males may produce from 0-05 to about 0.8 cc. (or ml.) of semen per milking, averaging about 0.25 cc, but an occasional male is found that will not produce any semen.
The semen of the turkey is pale cream-colored, fairly thick, and somewhat sticky. It dries so rapidly upon exposure to air that it should be taken up with the syringe as soon as possible after collection and protected from drying and from temperature below or above a range of 77° to 86° F. (25° to 30° C). As much as 3 or 4 cc. of turkey semen may be accumulated from a dozen or more males in one receptacle, but it should be used within one-half hour after collection.
A trace of blood in the semen should not be regarded very seriously. This may occur occasionally even when the milking is done with extreme gentleness. It is a signal to cease operations on the bird for the day. No permanent harm appears to result from slight bleeding, but males that continue to bleed should not be milked any longer. Thin, watery semen is low in fertilizing ability and should be discarded, along with samples contaminated with feces or chalky-white urine.
The toms used for insemination usually are kept in a group in an isolated pen, but some operators use single-torn cages since it has been reported that caged toms produce more semen than uncaged and that well-trained cooperative males can be milked without removing them from the cages.
AI of hens consists of exposing the orifice of the oviduct and injecting semen directly into it through the funnel-shaped end, which is extruded (turned outward) during natural mating or as result of manual stimulation and pressure. Successful extrusion of the oviduct can be effected only in hens that are
in laying condition.
Two operators are needed to artificially inseminate the hen effectively. In one method, the first operator, sitting down, usually is handed the turkey hen with her head toward him and with the breast of the bird resting on his lap. He then extrudes the oviduct by exerting pressure on the abdomen of the hen and by forcing the tail upward towards her head. Considerable pressure may be needed to extrude the oviduct properly, but less pressure will suffice if it is applied quickly rather than slowly. In another method, the first operator, standing, holds the hen between his legs and extrudes the oviduct.
In either method when the funnel-shaped orifice of the oviduct can be plainly seen on the hen’s left side of the vent, the second operator inserts the syringe containing the semen as far as it will slide easily—about IV2 inches. At this time the pressure on the abdomen is brought to an end and a light pushing pressure is maintained on the syringe which, following the retraction of the oviduct, will slide farther into the hen, another one-half inch, which is highly desirable. The desired amount of undiluted semen, usually 0.025 cc. is then injected by pressing on the plunger. Not all calibrations on the syringe can be read when it is in place for injection because one-half or more of the syringe is out of sight.
To remedy this, either withdraw only one semen dose into the syringe at one time or make marks indicating the amounts of semen to be used on the dry plunger with a sharp lead pencil or indelible ink. However, the best method is to use a metering device or a semen gun.
Excellent fertility has been obtained in turkey hens with as little as 0.01 cc. of undiluted semen, which can be used when semen is scarce; or the semen can be diluted 1:1 with isotonic salt solution (8.5 grams of plain sodium chloride, or table salt, per liter of sterile distilled water) and the usual amount, 0.025
cc, of the diluted semen injected very promptly. If the diluted semen is not to be used immediately, a special diluent should be used.
Commercial diluents allowing a 3 to 1 dilution are available.
Hens that become fertile by adequate natural or artificial insemination usually will retain their fertility quite well for 2 to 3 weeks, and some viable embryos may be produced as long as 41 days after insemination. A turkey hen may fail to become fertile as the result of a single insemination because of the presence in the oviduct of an egg about to be laid. To minimize this, inseminate turkey hens in late afternoon or evening. Starting at dusk and working into the night may be the best time since the birds are easier to handle in darkness, and very few hard-shell eggs will be present in the oviduct. However, field data suggest that fertility level is not significantly affected by the time of day of insemination.
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