Artificial Insemination - Things you should Know

"Veterinary Surgeon scanning the ovaries to predict optimum time of insemination"

Although some people, who are not vets, have been artificialy inseminating their mares for some years, it has been illegal to do so. As a result of recent legislation lay persons who have been trained at approved training establishments for AI, will be provided with an exemption certificate which will allow them to carry out the artificial insemination of mares. DEFRA who have been responsible for this legislation, are expected to crack down on those people who continue to carry out the procedure without the approved training.

The Order which came into force on the 6th July 2004 is called:
"The Veterinary Surgery (Artificial Insemination of Mares) Order 2004"

What does it say and mean? The announcement about the order was accompanied by the following:

(This note is not part of the Order)

This Order specifies the artificial insemination of mares as a minor treatment, test or operation to which the prohibition of the practice of veterinary surgery by persons other than veterinary surgeons in section 19(1) of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 does not apply.

The effect of this Order is to allow such persons who are aged 18 years or more to carry out the artificial insemination of mares if they (i) are undergoing supervised training on an approved course in the artificial insemination of mares, or (ii) hold a certificate of exemption.

Articles 1 and 2 contain introductory provisions. Article 3 specifies the exemption that is to apply. Article 4 sets out the criteria for qualification as a qualified inseminator. Article 5 relates to the issue of certificates of exemption by the Secretary of State. Article 6 relates to the suspension and revocation of certificates of exemption.

Primarily the legislation is an animal welfare issue in that inseminating a mare is what is known as an “invasive procedure” and if not done to high standards infection may be introduced and even worse injury to the mare. The practical advantages of using trained technicians to do this work are much more far reaching:

1. Conception rates are likely to be better.

2. The training includes semen assessment using a microscope. There are three main factors which contribute to why a mare does not conceive following artificial insemination:
• The mare.
• The operative.
• The semen.
It is this third problem which is usually blamed since in most cases the operative can blame someone who isn’t there! With good semen assessment techniques the semen quality is known at the point of collection and at the time of insemination.

3. Provided correct procedures are followed the risk of transmitting sexual diseases is virtually eliminated.

4. One argument against AI in equines has always been the risk of pirate inseminators splitting semen doses and using half in a mare for which no stud fee has been paid to the owner of the stallion. There have even been accusations in the past of cases of inseminators deliberately inseminating the wrong mare, and using semen from a lesser stallion in the mare that it was intended for. Regulation and registration should rule out the pirate operators.

DEFRA have approved four establishments at which training may be carried out and leading to a Certificate of Competence which is then sent to DEFRA who will issue a Certificate of Exemption which makes it legal for that person to carry out AI in equines.

"Qualified technician inseminating mare"

The four approved training establishments are:
• The Equine Fertility Unit, Merton Paddocks, Wooditton Road, Newmarket, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9BH 01638 662 491
• Warwickshire College, Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire CV35 9BL 01926 318 333
• Willesley Equine Clinic, Byams Farm, Willesley, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QU 01666 880 501
• Twemlows Hall Stud, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 2EZ 01948 664 966

Since the approval system was set up three years ago in order to prepare the industry for this legislation only Wellesley and Twemlows Hall have been running courses.

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