RAFT Solutions has launched a new service to analyse fresh and frozen bull semen. With around 1/3rd of UK stock bulls being reported as sub-fertile, and UK bovine conception rates often no more than 40%, assessing the quality of male fertility is an essential part of improving herd performance. Building on a recent research project with grant funding from Innovate UK, the cutting edge system uses computer assisted semen analysis (CASA) combined with flow cytometry to detect new measures of viability including acrosome integrity, not previously commercially available in the UK.
Before now, tests have relied on microscopy and the human eye to assess whether bull semen is good enough to use. From now, the new SemenRate service will be able to objectively assess different parts of the sperm using flow cytometry so that essential features such as acrosome integrity (the part of the sperm needed to get through the egg wall so fertilisation can take place) are evaluated as a routine procedure – bringing research techniques into the field.
RAFT Chief Executive, and RCVS cattle health and production specialist Jonathan Statham, said: “There are many different factors affecting reproductive success in cattle, including nutrition, infectious disease, heat detection, semen quality and the environment; both male and female factors are important. The control of fertilisation is often uncertain; and despite representing half the reproductive equation, male factors remain frequently unmeasured or unknown. Furthermore, a single bull is often used to mate multiple females and in the case of frozen-thawed semen in artificial insemination (AI) potentially thousands of females worldwide. Use of poor quality semen, affected by poor storage and handling, is likely to result in more services required to achieve pregnancy, contribute to fewer cows in a herd having conceived by 85 days post calving and being culled as barren. These equate to a huge financial loss to both the individual farmer and cattle industry worldwide.”