Artificial Insemination Technician

Pig feeding piglets on farm
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Artificial insemination technicians are responsible for assisting with the breeding of livestock species.

Duties

The primary duty for an artificial insemination technician is to inseminate livestock in hopes of successfully impregnating the animals, but they may have many additional related responsibilities. Technicians must carefully monitor the heat cycles of female animals to determine the optimal time to inseminate (based on the animal’s ovulation cycle and behavior).

They also must carefully handle and thaw the straws of frozen semen that have been kept in liquid nitrogen storage. The insemination must be performed with both speed and accuracy to ensure that the animal has the best chance to become pregnant on a single service.

Additional duties may include cleaning and maintaining breeding equipment, keeping careful records of each insemination that is performed, and giving advice to breeders regarding industry trends in sire selection and reproductive techniques. They also must be able to work closely with large animal veterinarians, animal breeders, and support staff to ensure that the breeding process runs smoothly and with minimal stress to the animals involved.

Artificial insemination technicians must use caution as they routinely interact with liquid nitrogen refrigeration systems. The duties for this position are generally conducted outdoors or in barns, so the technician may be regularly exposed to varying temperatures and changing weather conditions.

It is also important that proper safety precautions are followed while working with large animals to minimize the chance of injury to the technician, as these animals may react unpredictably due to the stress of being caught and restrained for the breeding process.

Career Options

Most positions in this field are found in the dairy cattle or swine industries, which rely heavily on artificial insemination for propagating their herds.

A.I. techs may also specialize in doing reproductive work with horses, sheep, or beef cattle. Those interested in working in the equine industry should note that the Thoroughbred breeding industry specifically prohibits the use of artificial insemination, so work in that specific niche is not possible for A.I. techs.

While most A.I. technicians work in the field (for breeding farms), some may be involved with conducting scientific research or working in academia.

Education & Training

Artificial insemination technicians must have a high school degree at minimum, but many technicians hold a degree in an animal related field such as animal science, dairy science, or biology  Some are also licensed veterinary technicians. There are a variety of training programs available to those hoping to work in this field, with these courses offered either by national breeding associations or companies who market frozen semen for the livestock industry.

It is important that technicians have an excellent knowledge of reproductive anatomy and physiology, animal behavior, and artificial insemination techniques. Technicians should also be very familiar with the sire lines and pedigrees of the breed in which they work, in case their clients wish to discuss their options.

Communication skills are particularly important, as the technician must interact with the veterinarian daily to determine which animals to breed and which have successfully become pregnant. Computer skills are also a big plus for a tech’s skills set, as many facilities now use computerized databases to maintain and update their records.

Salary

The salary for an artificial insemination technician can vary widely and depends on a variety of factors such as the technician’s level of education, years of experience, success rate, and the specific industry in which they are employed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track salary data separately for artificial insemination technicians but instead includes them in the more general category of animal breeders. The BLS salary survey found that in May of 2012 the mean hourly wage for those in the category of animal breeders was $37,230 per year ($17.90 per hour).

The bottom 10 percent of animal breeders earned less than $18,110 per year ($8.71 per hour), while the highest 10 percent of animal breeders earned more than $59,340 per year ($28.53 per hour).

The states with the highest annual mean wage for animal breeders include Michigan ($54,110), Wisconsin ($45,690), California ($43,510), New York ($39,950), and Indiana ($33,430).

Career Options

Reproductive technology is an increasingly important part of the animal breeding industry, and the demand for artificial insemination technicians should continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Candidates with extensive practical experience should have the best prospects of securing employment in the field.