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Survey of the present status of the use of artificial insemination in developed countries


D. Chupín and M. Thibier

D. Chupin is Animal Production Officer (Reproduction), Animal Production and Health Division, FAO, Rome, Italy, and M. Thibier can be contacted at Laboratoire de contrôle des reproducteurs, UNCEIA, Maisons-Alfort, France.

Since the data collected by Bonadonna and Succi (1980) and presented at the Ninth Congress on Animal Reproduction and Artificial Insemination in Madrid, Spain, in 1980, no new global statistics have been published on the use of artificial insemination (AI). In 1991, the Animal Production Service of FAO updated the data for developing countries, also covering data for 1980 and 1985. Questionnaires were circulated to all FAO member countries in the developing world. Replies were received from 136 countries and the results were published in French in December 1992 in a special issue of Elevage et Insémination (Chupin, 1992) and in English in June 1993 in World Animal Review (Chupin and Schuh, 1993). The levels of AI use varied among the different regions, ranging from a stable low level in Africa and Latin America to a rapidly increasing one in Asia and the Near East. It was also interesting to note that even though 69 percent of the world's cattle are being raised in the 136 countries involved in the survey, only 17 percent of all inseminations were performed there. For countries that were not included in the first survey, the figures used to make this calculation have been taken from Bonadonna and Succi (1980).

Over the last decade, political and/or economic changes have had significant repercussions on the activities of AI organizations. For member countries of the European Union (EU), the introduction of quotas for dairy production has considerably modified the structure of the herds, which have moved toward a decrease in numbers combined with an acceleration of genetic improvement. In Eastern European countries, political changes also disrupted the AI services, which previously had been totally centralized and for which the transition to privatization has not been easy, bringing about an impressive drop in the number of livestock. Accurate data are still lacking, but in some of these countries there is talk of a decrease of some 30 percent in cattle and even higher in sheep [communications presented during the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP) round table on the effects of political changes on the livestock sector in Eastern European countries, Berlin, Germany, January 1994].

To make the analysis complete, it was felt that the data for countries not addressed during the first survey, such as Western industrialized countries as well as former communist countries, should also be updated. For this purpose a second survey was organized in 1993 with the aim of presenting a more general overview of the situation, rather than a precise and detailed analysis, as was done with the first survey. This approach was also imposed by the commercial nature of AI organizations in most of these countries, as many organizations were reluctant to divulge precise information on their activities for fear that it would be utilized by competing organizations.


In May 1993, a one-page questionnaire in English was addressed personally to a list of experts (one per country), who were selected through personal contact by the authors, with the assistance of the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP) for Eastern European countries and the French company Instruments de Médecine Vétérinaire (IMV) for countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The information requested, exclusively focused on cattle, was divided into three parts:

· The number of semen doses available in 1991, whether they were produced in the country itself (fresh or frozen semen) or whether they were imported or exported. The year 1991 had been selected in order to stay in line with the survey on developing countries for the sake of comparison, although it certainly would have been feasible to collect more recent data during the second half of 1993.

· AI activities in 1980, 1985 and 1991, identifying separately the use of fresh semen and frozen semen. The information requested was specifically on first AIs.

· The evolution of the activities in 1980,1985 and 1991 in accordance with the type of females (whatever the breed of the semen). For 1991, the number of breedable females (adult cows and two-year-old heifers) was also requested to permit the calculation of the coverage rates.

As with the first survey, the present one did not include pregnancy rates.

The replies to the questionnaires were received between June 1993 and June 1994. A reminder was sent in November 1993 where necessary. As the questionnaires were completed by experts on a personal basis, the figures provided should not be considered as official country statistics.

Before entering the information in the database, the following cross-verifications were made:

· total number of doses produced, imported and exported, and a comparison of the total number of doses available with the total number of AIs reported for 1991;

· comparison of the number of AIs in 1980, 1985 and 1991 whether calculated according to type of semen or type of female;

· comparison of the number of breedable females with official FAO statistics (FAO, 1992);

· number of first AIs per groups of breeds, whether inferior or equal to the number of females in the respective groups.

Whenever these comparisons indicated inconsistencies, a letter was sent to the respondent asking for clarification. When no satisfactory reply could be obtained, the figure was replaced by a question mark (Table 1) and the corresponding country was not included in the calculations.

In fact, very few calculations were made because of the significant differences in the sizes of the countries and also of the cattle populations. The main data on countries are presented in Table 1. Countries were divided into five groups and are presented in the figures and tables in descending order of total number of first AIs in 1991 : the EU, North America, Eastern Europe (including Russia, but not the other republics constituting the CIS), Western Europe (outside the EU), and South Africa, Australia, Japan and New Zealand grouped under "Others".



Replies were received from 37 countries. Contact could not be established with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Lithuania and Yugoslavia. Questionnaires were also sent to 38 AI centres in the CIS, but only one centre in the Moscow region replied. This has been presented in Table 1 as "Russia" and included in the tables and figures under Eastern Europe.

The distribution of breeds under dairy, beef and dual-purpose was not always clearly defined and varied between countries. For example, Germany and Norway grouped all of their dairy animals under dual-purpose, while France, Portugal, South Africa and Australia, among others, included dual-purpose animals with dairy or beef breeds. Nevertheless, the three distinct categories of females have been kept for the purpose of the analysis. As regards Spain, Macedonia, Poland, Finland and Switzerland, the number of breedable females, which they failed to indicate in the questionnaires, has been estimated by multiplying the number of head of cattle quoted in the FAO statistics (FAO, 1992) by a 0.45 coefficient.

Semen production

Data on semen produced are presented first for each individual country in Table 1, and then for country groups in Table 2. Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Iceland are not included in these two tables since they did not reply to this question.

1 - Country data - Données par pays - Datos por países

The country producing the largest number of semen doses is France (40 million), followed by the Czech Republic (27 million), Poland and Canada (18 million each) and the United States (16 million). Seven countries produced less than one million doses a year: Greece, Portugal, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Iceland; Malta does not produce any at all.

Six countries produced fresh semen in 1991: France, the Netherlands, Albania, Romania, Russia and New Zealand. In Ireland, even though data on semen production were not provided, it was indicated under "Number of AIs per year" that the figures included both fresh and frozen semen, implying that the production of fresh semen cannot be quantified. The motivation for using fresh semen clearly differs between countries: in France, the Netherlands and above all New Zealand, its use is justified by the need to meet the excessive demand for semen from certain bulls, and, as regards New Zealand, a seasonal peak in relation to a very short breeding season. Fresh semen was used in Albania and Romania to compensate for the lack of liquid nitrogen equipment necessary for the use of frozen semen. For these countries it would no doubt have been more accurate to use as a reference any year after 1991 in order to detect the changes brought about by the movement toward privatization of AI services and of farms, as well as by the appearance of numerous small herds. The figure of more than 1.5 million doses of fresh semen reported by the Moscow AI centre is surprising and a clarification has been requested. In all, fresh semen does not represent an important percentage of semen produced, except in New Zealand (60 percent) and in Albania (92.7 percent).

Semen exchanges between countries

Data on exchanges of semen are presented in Tables 1, 3 and 4.

With the exception of Italy and Luxembourg, all countries have provided information on the importation and exportation of semen, although the United States has not provided any data on importations.

As was expected, the United States and Canada are the main exporting countries (Table 3), representing 21.9 percent of exports, with little importation. For the other country groups, imports and exports are almost equal in the EU and in Eastern Europe, while Western Europe (outside EU) and the group of "other" countries import more than they export. Within this latter group, South Africa, Australia and Japan are importing countries, while New Zealand is exporting.

Within the EU, the main exporting countries are the Netherlands and France for dairy breeds; France, Ireland and Belgium for beef breeds; and Germany for dual-purpose breeds. With the notable exception of Estonia, which has reported exporting 625 000 doses of semen of dual-purpose breeds. Eastern European countries usually import semen.

The final result of these semen exchanges, added to the doses produced in the country, gives the total number of doses available per country, using the following formula: number of doses produced (fresh + frozen) + number of doses imported - number of doses exported

An analysis per type of female (Table 4) reveals massive exportation of semen from dairy breeds by North America, half of which are destined for EU member countries. These countries in turn export almost 1 million doses of semen from dairy breeds and four times more from beef breeds than they import. The main countries exporting semen from dual-purpose breeds are the Eastern European countries, while they import proportionately little semen from dairy breeds. Their imports from beef breeds, on the other hand, are equal to those of the EU member countries. Non-EU Western European countries export little and import mostly semen from dairy and dual-purpose breeds.

In general terms, the 32 developed countries included in this section of the analysis export more semen than they import. This means that more than 1.5 million doses from dairy breeds, 400 000 doses from beef breeds and 500 000 doses from dual-purpose breeds are exported to other regions in the world. Even though the United States did not provide information on the importation of semen, it can be assumed that most of this surplus goes to developing countries or to countries in the former USSR. The results of the first survey showed that developing countries imported more than 3 million doses in 1991 (Chupin and Schuh, 1993).

Number of first AIs

Information concerning the evolution of the number of first AIs is analysed in Figures 1 to 4 and in Table 5 with regard to type of semen and type of female. As previously stated, data per country are shown in Table 1.

All the countries sent usable replies, at least regarding the number of first AIs in 1991. Italy, Luxembourg and Australia did not send data for 1980 and 1985, however, and are therefore not included in the analysis (Figures 1 to 4). On the other hand, Romania and Russia gave the total number of AIs, instead of first AIs. As a result, they have not been included in Figures 1 to 3, but the information provided per type of female appears to relate to first AIs, and therefore this has been considered in Figure 4 and Table 5. In the case of Poland, however, the data given on the number of AIs according to the type of female were obviously wrong and have not been taken into account in Table 5 and Figure 4.

The total number of first AIs per group of countries (Figure 1), while almost stable between 1980 and 1985, clearly dropped in 1991. This decrease was moderate in North America (-5.3 percent in 1991 compared to 1980, but the drop had already been observed between 1980 and 1985) and in Western Europe (-7.7 percent), but more significant in the EU (-17.2 percent) and really astonishing in Eastern Europe (-42.3 percent). Obviously, reasons for these decreases vary between groups of countries. The decrease in the EU was attributed to the dairy quotas set in 1984, while the political changes that have occurred in Eastern Europe have induced an important drop in the number of cattle and other livestock as well, partly as a result of the slaughtering to feed the populations and partly because of massive exportation to produce hard currency. At the same time, the number of first AIs has increased regularly in the four "other" countries, with the exception of South Africa, totalling 31.8 percent more between 1980 and 1991 for this group of countries.

2 - Total number of doses of semen produced per group of countries in 1991 - Nombre total de doses de semence produites par groupe de pays en 1991 - Número total de dosis de semen producidas por grupo de países en 1991

3 - Total number of doses of semen available per group of countries in 1991 - Nombre total de doses de semence disponibles par groupe de pays en 1991 - Número total de dosis de semen disponibles por grupo de países en 1991

4 - Exchanges of semen per group of breeds in 1991 - Echanges de semence par groupe de races en 1991 - Intercambio de semen por grupo de razas en 1991


Number of countries

Dairy breed semen

Beef breed semen

Dual-purpose breed semen







European Union


1 665 900

956 000

152 244

665 000

15 000

29 000

North America


170 000

3 166 000

117 000

206 000



Eastern Europe


236 500

33 000

135 300


55 600

637 300

Western Europe*


384 855

63 000

51 239

18 910

153 548

94 053



599 817

173 993

114 762

57 902





3 057 072

4 397 993

570 545

948 512

224 148

760 353

* Outside the European Union.

1 - Changes in the total number of first AIs per group of countries from 1980 to 1991 - Evolution du nombre total des IA premières par groupe de pays de 1980 à 1991 - Cambios en el número total de primeras IA por grupos de países entre 1980 y 1991

2 - Changes in the total number of first AIs using frozen semen per group of countries from 1980 to 1991 - Evolution du nombre total des IA premières utilisant du sperme congelé par groupe de pays de 1980 à 1991 - Cambios en el número total de primeras IA utilizando semen congelado por grupos de países entre 1980 y 1991

3 - Changes in the total number of first AIs using fresh semen per group of countries from 1980 to 1991 - Evolution du nombre total des IA premières utilisant du sperme frais par groupe de pays de 1980 à 1991 - Cambios en el número total de primeras IA utilizando semen fresco por grupos de países entre 1980 y 1991

4 - Changes In the total number of first AIs according to the type of female from 1980 to 1991 - Evolution du nombre total des IA premières, en fonction du type de femelle de 1980 à 1991 - Cambios en et número total de primeras IA por tipos de hembras entre 1980 y 1991

The number of first AIs using frozen semen has decreased parallel to the total AIs, owing to the popularity of this technique (Figure 2). On the other hand, AI using fresh semen remains constant in New Zealand, its place of origin, at 98.6 percent in 1991 as compared to the 1980 figure, and is progressing, although at a very low level, in a few countries of the EU, an increase of 112.5 percent over the same period (Figure 3).

In 1991, the EU came first in terms of the total number of first AIs (20 144000), followed by North America (11 058 000), Eastern Europe (5 820000) and non-EU Western European countries (3 161 000). Among the four "other" countries, Japan came first with 2 245 000 AIs, followed by New Zealand (1 894 000), Australia (1 200 000) and South Africa (350 000).

Altogether, 44 234 000 first AIs have been performed in developed countries in 1991 (Figure 4). This is clearly fewer than in 1980 (-6 514 000, or -12.8 percent), resulting, as was previously observed, from a general drop in AI activity. With regard to type of female, this phenomenon has been observed particularly in the dairy breeds (-3 745 000, or -12.1 percent) and with dual-purpose breeds (-4 197 000, or -29.5 percent), while a certain increase has taken place with beef breeds (+1 427 000, or +25.2 percent). It must be remembered that these figures may not be fully accurate, however, especially for beef breeds, as there was obvious confusion between semen breed and female breed in some replies. The most obvious cases were when beef semen was used for crossing dairy or dual-purpose females. In some questionnaires these were reported as being AIs in beef breeds, and therefore were larger in quantity than the number of available breedable females. These replies were discarded, but some may have remained undetected.

The evolution per groups of countries is in line with what has been observed globally (Table 5). Inseminations in dairy breeds are decreasing everywhere, with the exception of the group of "other" countries where an important increase has been observed in three countries (+575 000, or +18.2 percent) (data missing for Australia in 1980 and 1985). Inseminations in beef breeds, on the other hand, are on the increase everywhere, except in Eastern European countries. As for inseminations in dual-purpose breeds, they are parallel with those of dairy breeds, which confirms the previous comment regarding the classification of breeds in certain countries.

Large differences appear when comparing the doses of semen available per country. In the EU, 5.3 doses are available for each first AI, which reveals the importance of progeny-testing programmes. In Eastern Europe, the figure is similar (6.4), whereas in Western Europe outside the EU (9.8) and in Canada (11.6) this ratio reaches surprising levels. As regards Canada, the explanation appears to be that semen doses to be exported are considered in the progeny-testing programme as are those to be used within the country, therefore, the ratio should be calculated considering the number of doses available related to the total number of AIs plus the number of doses exported, which then becomes 3.3. The group of "other" countries shows a rate of 1.8, which is only just enough to cover the return AIs, without leaving the possibility of eliminating any dose when the results of the testing programmes become available.

AI coverage

The data in Table 6 do not cover Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Austria, Finland, Norway and Switzerland because of missing or questionable information.

The AI coverage rate varies widely between countries: from 7.4 percent in South Africa to more than 90 percent in Hungary, Norway and Japan. This rate is clearly affected by the proportion of different types of females found in the country, although wide variations were also observed for a given category of female. For instance, if the average AI coverage rate is 64.9 percent in dairy breeds, it reaches only 26.3 percent in Ireland, but 94.5 percent in Albania and 95.7 percent in Hungary and Japan. Similarly for beef breeds, the coverage rate, which on average is 7.8 percent, varies from 1.0 percent in South Africa to more than 50 percent in the United Kingdom, Hungary and Slovakia.

The very high rates claimed by a few countries are questionable. For Eastern European countries, this may be a consequence of the former political centralization and of the existence of large state farms, all staffed with several AI technicians and veterinarians. But the rates for beef breeds in Ireland or for all types of females in Japan may suggest once more that not all the mistakes in the replies were detected and that the figures quoted sometimes refer to all AIs.

The average coverage rate in dairy breeds is puzzling. It has been commonly accepted over the last two or three decades that dairy herds in industrialized countries were inseminated 100 percent, apart from some groups of heifers or a few repeat breeders. This does not appear to be true; except for a few countries, such as Australia, Japan and Sweden, the AI coverage usually ranges between 60 and 70 percent. There has also been some confusion regarding the allocation of breeds among the three categories proposed here, with some mountain breeds having been classified as dairy, even though it is known that these breeds still widely use natural service. This does not sufficiently explain the discrepancy between 60 and 100 percent, however. Several other explanations may be suggested, including: data on the numbers of breedable females are not accurate; not all breedable females are serviced each year (intercalving intervals higher than 365 days); the culling rate may vary, and therefore also the proportion of heifers in the herd that are not systematically inseminated; or the number of bulls still found in dairy herds has been largely underestimated. On the contrary, data from the United Kingdom, Hungary and Slovakia, and also from Belgium and Denmark, show that the AI coverage in beef breeds can be several times higher than the usual 5 to 10 percent, depending on the livestock systems used.

5 - Evolution of number of first AIs per group of breeds and per group of countries from 1980 to 1991 - Evolution du nombre des IA premières par groupe de races et par groupe de pays de 1980 à 1991 - Evolución del número de las primeras IA por grupo de razas y por grupo de países entre 1980 y 1991

6 - Coverage rate per group of breeds and per group of countries in 1991 - Taux de pénétration de l'IA par groupe de races et par groupe de pays en 1991 - Tasa de cobertura por grupo de razas y por grupo de países en 1991

The number of AI centres per country, or at least the consequence of it, which is the number of breedable females covered by each centre, appears to affect the coverage rate. All the parameters needed for this analysis are known for 22 countries. In 15 of them, the average number of breedable females is below 200 000 per centre, either because the country has few animals or because there are many centres. In these countries the average coverage rate in dairy and dual-purpose breeds is 76.7 percent. In contrast, in the remaining seven countries, where there are more than 200 000 breedable females per centre, the coverage rate for the same categories of females is only 57.8 percent. This rough calculation reveals the importance of the geographical distribution of the AI centres, which determines access to the herds. It must be modulated, however, to take into consideration the differences in strategies for the dissemination of the genetic merit, which are not directly related to the area nor to the number of females.


As was the case with data published in 1992 for developing countries, the reader may not agree with some of the figures presented in this article. They are the result of individual and unofficial responses, which are difficult to verify. An attempt was made to eliminate data that resulted from a misinterpretation of the questions; some, however, may have been missed.

The results of this survey do show that the use of artificial insemination is less generally practised than was thought and is decreasing for various reasons, most of which are beyond the control of the AI organizations. This drop is particularly important in dairy and dual-purpose breeds, while AIs in beef breeds have tended to increase in almost every country. In Eastern European countries, however, the use of AI is decreasing for all categories of females, as a result of a decline in the number of livestock.

Well-trained bulls and efficient equipment allow for the production of a large number of doses from a given bull - Des taureaux bien entraînés et un équipement efficace permettent la production d'un grand nombre de doses de semence par taureau - Toros bien entrenados y equipo eficiente permiten la producción de un gran número de pajillas (dosis) provenientes de un determinado toro

With the use of mobile laboratories, the health status of all AI bulls can be checked regularly - Grace à l'utilisation de camionnettes-laboratoires, l'état sanitaire des taureaux d'IA est vérifié régulièrement - Con el uso de laboratorios móviles, el estado de salud de todos los toros para la IA es comprobado regularmente

Semen quality is evaluated before processing - La qualité de la semence est estimée avant conditionnement - La calidad del semen es evaluada antes de su procesamiento

A liquid-nitrogen container for the long-term storage of frozen semen - Un container d'azote liquide pour le stockage à long terme de la semence - Un tanque de nitrógeno líquido para el almacenamiento a largo plazo del semen congelado

The objective of AI should not be limited to impregnating cows: it must first be used in support of genetic improvement - L'objectif de l'IA ne peut se limiter à produire des vaches gestantes: elle doit avant tout être le support du progrès génétique - El objetivo de la IA no debe limitarse a preñar a las vacas: debe ser primero que todo un apoyo al mejoramiento genético

Unfortunately, this survey has not met its objective of describing the status of AI use worldwide, since almost no replies were received from the former USSR. A third survey will need to be prepared as soon as proper contacts can be established in each of the 15 republics of the former USSR. It is also not possible to update the comparative graph on the ranking of the country groups (Europe, United States/Canada, Eastern Europe, developing countries and South Africa/Australia/Japan/ New Zealand) for the number of head of cattle and for the number of AIs as was proposed in the previous article (Chupin and Schuh, 1993). The lack of information received from the former USSR countries undoubtedly decreases the total number of AIs recorded worldwide. Adding the 16 153 855 AIs performed in developing countries in 1991 to the 44234000 calculated in this paper, a total of 60 387 855 results. Clearly, the figure of 100 million AIs estimated for the whole world in 1991 is out of hand, mostly because of the decline in the number of dairy females. A positive trend that has been noticed almost everywhere in the present survey, however, is the gradual increase of the artificially inseminated beef female population; and there resides the future potential of this technology. But will scientists and practitioners help to meet the challenge by providing tools to make AI in suckling cows easier, cheaper and therefore more accessible?


Bonadonna, T. & Succi, G. 1980. Artificial insemination in the world. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress on Animal Artificial Insemination, Madrid, Spain, 16-20 June 1980. Vol. 5. p. 655-667.

Chupin, D. 1992. Résultats d'une enquête sur l'état de l'insémination artificielle dans les pays en développement. Elev. Insémination, 252: 1-26.

Chupin, D. & Schuh, H. 1993. Survey of present status of the use of artificial insemination in developing countries. Wld. Anim. Rev., 74/75: 26-35.

FAO. 1992. FAO Production Yearbook 1991. Vol. 45. Rome, FAO.

Malafosse, A. 1992. Statistiques européennes d'IA bovines. Elev. Insémination, Numéro spécial, 45-47.

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