Use of female cattle for pregnancy testing and artificial insemination schools


Ratification Date: 15 Feb 2008

Position statement

Pregnancy testing/diagnosis (PD) and artificial insemination (AI) are important and useful tools that help promote good management and the genetic improvement of cattle. It is important that these procedures be conducted competently and with due regard for animal welfare. Personnel should be appropriately educated and trained in the use of these procedures. Instructional programs for cattle PD and AI must adhere to the following guidelines.


The following definitions apply for the purposes of this position statement.

Pregnancy testing/diagnosis: The detection of pregnancy (or non-pregnancy) by trans-rectal (or per-rectal) manual palpation. The training of personnel in other methods of PD (e.g. ultrasound) will be considered separately by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians.

Artificial insemination: The placement of semen into the most appropriate part of the female genital tract to optimise the possibility of subsequent conception. In cattle, this is usually the uterine body.

Alternatives to live animal use

Students must receive prior instruction on the relevant aspects of cattle anatomy and physiology. If possible, they should practice techniques with abattoir-derived organs and/or appropriate models before using live animals.

An acceptable level of competence in trainees can only be achieved by providing supervised training with live animals.


The use of live animals in schools or training must be approved in advance by an animal care and ethics committee (AEC).

Instructors should be veterinarians with appropriate experience or instructors approved for the purpose by the AEC. There should be at least one instructor for every 10 students.

Instructors and students should:

  • wear an appropriate shoulder-length glove (if plastic, preferably with seams inward)
  • be free of skin lesions on the arm and hand
  • use adequate amounts of appropriate lubrication, ensure fingernails are cut short, and remove jewellery on fingers and arms
  • employ appropriate hygiene measures
  • use appropriate equipment that is designed for the purpose
  • be advised about protection against Q fever, or tested for immunity and vaccinated if not immune

Animals used for instruction should be:

  • examined by a veterinarian before the class and deemed suitable for the purpose intended
  • of appropriate size and physical development
  • individually identified and of suitable temperament
  • free from abnormal vaginal discharge
  • currently immunised against leptospira with an adequate vaccination protocol; the most recent vaccine should have been administered no more than one year before and no less than one month before
  • known to be free from enzootic bovine leukosis (EBL) or pestivirus; if the status for either disease is unknown, a fresh glove should be employed for the examination of each animal.

Welfare considerations

In general, no drugs are to be used on, or administered to, animals involved.

Cows should be examined by a suitably experienced veterinarian to assess their suitability for use, with particular emphasis on temperament and the size of the anal orifice. Only those assessed as unlikely to suffer undue trauma should be selected for use.

Instructors and students should observe good animal handling principles to minimise animal stress.

Animals should be restrained in suitable equipment to minimise movement and inadvertent damage to either the cow or the trainee palpator/inseminator.

Equipment and materials used for AI and PD should be of good quality and meet appropriate hygiene standards.

Animals should not be restrained for sessions for more than two hours per day and should not be used on more than two occasions in a seven-day period; they should be rested for 14 days after their second usage.

An appropriate method (e.g. stock marker or a method prescribed by the AEC) should be used to track individual animal use.

Individual animals should not be used for more than five procedures (AI or PD) per day by novice students or eight procedures per day by more experienced students.

For AI instruction, individual animals should not be used for more than two insemination procedures per day by novice students or four procedures per day by more experienced students.

A minimum of five cows are to be provided for each trainee inseminator (i.e. a course with 10 participants will require a minimum of 50 cows for the practical training sessions and the examination).

Pregnant animals or those with abnormal female tract development (e.g. freemartins) should not be used for inseminator training.

Animals should be immediately withdrawn if they show signs of undue stress, severe straining, excessive rectal ballooning, or overt tissue damage. These animals should not be considered for reuse until either healing has occurred (normally three weeks) or their use has been approved following inspection by a veterinarian.

After the school:

Animals should be monitored twice daily for the first two days, and then once daily for the next five days.

Veterinary attention should be obtained for any animal that exhibits any of the following

  • signs of pain on defecation
  • discharges from the rectum or vulva
  • persistent abdominal/rectal straining for longer than 30 minutes after discontinuing use
  • failing to eat and
  • signs indicating peritonitis or fever (e.g. depression, lethargy, ‘saw horse’ stance)

Records should be kept of all findings and treatments;

An autopsy must be performed on any animal that dies unexpectedly (or is euthanased) during or following a school, and the supervising AEC must be provided with the report as soon as possible; and

An adequate record of students and instructors should be kept by the organisation (to be used in the event of a zoonotic disease developing after the school).


Australian Association of Cattle Veterinarians (2004). Pregnancy Diagnosis in Cattle, Chapter 21: Guidelines for pregnancy diagnosis schools.

Victorian Department of Primary Industries (2001). Code of Acceptable Farming Practice for the Welfare of Cattle (Victoria). http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/dpi/nreninf.nsf/9e58661e880ba9e44a256c640023eb2e/3bd8abf5d04a5b49ca256f0f0009b4ec/$FILE/AG0009.pdf (Viewed by author 20 December 2007)

NSW Department of Primary Industries (2003). Teaching artificial insemination and pregnancy testing in cattle. Animal Research Review Panel Guideline 8, Animal Ethics Infolink. http://www.animalethics.org.au/reader/animals-teaching/arrp-teaching-artificial-insem-cattle.htm (Viewed by author 20 December 2007)

NSW Department of Primary Industries (2005). Standard Operating Procedures – Cattle Pregnancy Testing, Ref Code CAT30. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/animal-welfare/general/other/livestock/sop/cattle/pregnancy-testing (Viewed by author 20 December 2007)

Date of ratification by AVA Board 15 February 2008