Garth Brown, General Manager at Canadian Centre of Gene Transfer – Genesus Inc.
When semen reaches its destination, the farm accepts responsibility for maintaining the potential for consistent reproductive performance of semen doses. Upon arrival, semen doses should be immediately placed in a semen storage unit at 63°F (17°C).
As the doses are transferred from the shipping container to the semen storage unit, delivery date, batch number, number of doses, and expiration date should be recorded on a data sheet kept next to the semen storage unit. When doses are removed for AI, the date, batch number, expiration date, and number removed should also be recorded on the data sheet. This record keeping prevents use of semen doses past the expiration date.
Daily monitoring of the semen storage unit temperature should be standard practice. This is easily done by recording the temperature of a thermometer inserted through a stopper into a bottle filled with 70 ml of water and placed near the center of the semen storage unit. Thermometer readings confirm the accurate operation of unit’s temperature controller and digital readout or alert the technician to a possible temperature maintenance problem. When temperature readings are taken, it is also a good time to rotate the semen doses.
Another more technical way of monitoring semen with an outside devise that will notify you if semen has fluctuated too much within the parameters.
Below are 2 screen shots of a semen refrigerator being monitored by a Maximus control with a probe in the air space. We would recommend that this probe be used to control the unit and another probe be placed inside a liquid filled container the size and shape of the semen tubes being used. This is a better indicator of the temperature conditions that the semen is experiencing. What most people don’t realize is that the mechanical thermostats that these refrigerators come with are not very accurate and can easily have up to a 3 or 4 degree bandwidth. The Maximus will turn the fridge on and off based on your own electronically controlled set points which can be much tighter.
The graph below shows that from before 9:00 AM until about 12:30 PM, the door is being opened and closed and the refrigerator temperature is fluctuating a lot. It stabilizes after 12:30.
The dashboard view below shows the current temperature of the fridge and the alarm set points. If the fridge temperature reaches the high or low alarm set point, the Maximus will text, email, and/or call to alert you. Data from the control is stored for years, and reports can sent via email to look back at any anomalies should you have concerns about semen quality.
Key standards for on-farm storage
- Maintain semen storage units at 61–64°F (16–18°C).
- Record the arrival of all semen batches.
- Record the removal of all semen batches from the semen storage unit.
- Record the daily temperature of semen storage units.
- Store AI doses at 63°F (17°C) away from UV light.
- Do not return AI doses to the semen storage unit if their temperature has fluctuated more than ±5.4°F (±3°C).
- Regularly clean semen storage unit.
- Keep semen storage unit in a temperature-controlled room such as an office with even air flow on all sides (avoid hot corners).
- Plug storage unit into its own electrical circuit to avoid power surges and/or use a UPS surge protector.
- The bottom line for peak reproductive performance and profitability is setting and achieving high standards.
Any compromise of these standards affects semen quality and causes reduction in reproductive performance