Is Artificial Insemination (also known as AI.) acceptable in the Budgerigar world? This seems to be a current matter of debate within the hobby. AI is prohibited by the Budgerigar Society of Great Britain, while it is permitted and even encouraged by the American Budgerigar Society. Such divergence of opinion on different sides of the Atlantic within the Budgerigar fandom warrants a lengthy debate. Are the Americans correct to utilize AI, and are we losing out by not adopting the method, particularly as poor fertility seems to be a serious issue in the UK, or are we correct to prohibit the procedure?
Before we can really analyze the pros and drawbacks of AI, we must first explore the technology of artificial insemination to learn what it entails, how it works, and when it may be utilized.
The results of using AI
Artificial insemination is the injection of male sperm into the vagina of a female through mechanical methods (usually of the same species but can be used to produce certain hybrid forms when copulation between the two different species would not naturally take place). The first AI tests with animals that produced live offspring (rather than shelled eggs) were documented by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani, who demonstrated that the male’s contribution to new life during mating was made by the semen (copulation). After the work of the “Father of Genetics,” Gregor Mendel, was rediscovered in 1900 by three different biologists working independently in different parts of Europe; Carl Correns in Germany, Hugo de Vries in Holland, and Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg in Austria, very little further research or experimentation was conducted in AI.
The use of AI in the Dairy and Beef Industry
Once genetics was established, it became clear that scientifically planned breeding programs to improve beef and dairy production could be rapidly transformed by using the technique of artificial insemination, which used the sperm of superior males on much larger female populations than natural mating would allow. The groundbreaking study was carried out in Russia around the time of the 1917 Revolution.
Following the pioneering work in Russia, the technology of artificial insemination was gradually adopted across Europe, and breeders of Friesian and Holstein dairy cattle achieved significant gains in milk output by using artificial insemination in the 1920s and 1930s. These two dairy cow breeds currently account for the vast bulk of milk output in the industrialized world, and practically all dairy cattle are produced through artificial insemination.
Milk production is a vast enterprise, with investments and yearly revenue in the billions of pounds. Because artificial insemination is a necessary “tool” for the dairy industry’s survival, many millions of pounds are spent each year on breeding trials, research, and progeny testing of stock produced by bulls with the finest pedigrees, containing the most meticulously kept records of all ancestors, before the sperm of an intended bull is used in commercial AI programs. Any bulls who fail the extremely high criteria necessary for substantial usage in the commercial dairy herd are rejected and culled from the herd, and the records of near relatives are further investigated to see whether the failure is genetic in nature and hence heritable.
Further advances in techniques
In 1949, a technology for freezing sperm was invented, allowing enormous amounts of sperm from one man to be kept and even utilized long after the developer of the sperm died. It had previously been determined that when AI was employed, less semen was necessary to attain fertility than when natural copulation was utilized, and hence one ejaculation from a bull could create at least ten offspring, while normal mating produces only one progeny in cattle. The use of frozen sperm began at the same time as commercial air travel became prevalent, and the use of frozen sperm in conjunction with artificial insemination rapidly had a significant influence on dairy cow output worldwide. It was now feasible to transport the chosen bull’s sperm to anyplace in the globe without sending the bull, and a bull’s sperm could be utilized in many nations at the same time. This has significant genetic ramifications for the gene pool in dairy cattle.
Artificial insemination is not limited to dairy cattle, but its commercial use is greatest in this sector. The procedure may be performed on many different types of animals and birds, where semen can be collected and utilized to fertilize a female. AI may be most beneficial in the conservation of endangered species by guaranteeing that the majority of females have offspring in order to raise population numbers.
AI in Humans
Human artificial insemination was first documented in the late nineteenth century, and most of its early usage was done in secret. Artificial insemination became common in human medicine only in the 1950s, once the method of freezing sperm was established. In 1953, the first human being was created from banked sperm. The procedure is currently widely utilized to treat human infertility. A sterile guy (one who produces no spermatozoa) will never be able to engage in reproduction, even if he enjoys trying; but, a male with low fertility may be able to create babies with artificial insemination procedures. In addition, AI may be used to help females with damaged or sick reproductive organs conceive when regular copulation fails to generate kids. The higher levels of fertility that can be achieved by artificial insemination than by natural mating are due to the egg being surrounded by a greater number of sperm after artificial insemination, because the sperm do not have to swim as far to reach the egg after being manually placed closer to the egg.
Selection is the Issue
The dairy business has profited immensely from the adoption of artificial insemination, not because the process itself is a panacea that works like magic, but because of the extremely stringent selection of the bulls used in combination with artificial insemination. The testing of bulls prior to their usage as semen donors in artificial insemination is the cornerstone for AI’s effectiveness in milk production. Knowledge of genetics has been critical to the success of global dairy herd improvements; those responsible for the development of artificial insemination have carefully and patiently developed many different strains of bulls that are prepotent and can be guaranteed to improve or maintain the level of milk production in all of their female offspring.
Don’t you wish you could purchase cock budgerigars that you could be certain would enhance your own stud? One of the reasons you can’t is because Budgerigar breeders haven’t been as meticulous in their selection and as brutal in culling their stock as the breeders of the bulls used in Breed Improvement programs for milk output. If artificial insemination had been used in dairy cow production without the stringent selection processes that are now in place. and are continually being evaluated, then the use of artificial insemination would have been an even larger failure than it has been. AI has the same ability to swiftly propagate harmful genes as it has to fast disseminate positive genes throughout a large population. A study of population genetics mathematically reveals the ease with which unwanted genes may spread as well as the great difficulties in eliminating such genes once present in a big population. In the case of dairy cow production, it is the pressure of the dairy industry’s overall economic worth that works as insurance for ongoing research into breeding programs employed in combination with AI.
The fertility levels of the bull, as well as his capacity to impart high milk outputs to his female progeny, are assessed throughout the selection procedure employed in appraising bulls for use with artificial insemination. In order to collect semen from bulls, the bull must “mate” with either a “teaser” animal (live steer) and the bull’s penis is put into an artificial “vagina” and the ejaculated semen is then collected inside this receptacle, or the bull mates with a dummy which has a “vagina”. The bull must have a desire to “mate” regardless of how the semen is gathered; this is the test of the bull’s libido. A low-libido bull will contribute fewer sperm than a high-libido bull. Bulls with low libido are unreliable semen producers, hence bulls with a strong libido are necessary commercially. Bulls must not only have strong libidos to gather big amounts of semen, but the semen must also have a high sperm count to ensure conception. AI programs employ only bulls with high libido and sperm counts, as well as genes for high milk output, excellent conformation, and lack of genetic abnormalities.
The gains in dairy cow output may have been achieved without the use of artificial insemination, but it would have taken considerably longer. Furthermore, the observed benefits are not continuous. In every properly designed breeding program, the first few generations will always exhibit the biggest advances. Following that, future advancement will be marginal, and it must be recognized that the physical manifestation of every genetically regulated attribute has a limited limit. If the genes are not present in a person, the character of those genes cannot be expressed; for example, you cannot produce rats from mice.
AI is not a cure for Infertility
In the case of budgerigar artificial insemination, semen is retrieved from cocks by human manipulation, and hence desire is never assessed. This is only one of several major disadvantages of using artificial insemination in budgies. If the budgerigar cock used for AI has a low sperm count (how are you going to test for this?) then the stud will be infertile. Infertility cannot be cured with artificial insemination.
In terms of the Budgerigar hobby, why would anybody wish to employ artificial insemination, which would quickly generate a stud of extremely near relatives? Wouldn’t you want to mate your finest cock with all of your hens? You’d soon have just extremely close relatives mating with each other, something you’ve always avoided in the past. You’d quickly run out of variation, and unless you began with exceptional stock, you’d generate mediocrity like peas in a pod. Also, if you have low fertility in your stud, won’t you be advertising it as a feature, eventually making regular mating impossible within your stud after a few generations? That’s the end of your line!
Meanwhile, how can you get rid of excess inventory? Of course, as is customary, it is sold, and bad fertility spreads even farther throughout the hobby. Surely, breeding show budgerigars is a pastime, not a lucrative commercial enterprise worth billions of pounds. We are not attempting to rescue a rare or endangered species; we breed display budgerigars for the pure joy and challenge of attempting to achieve the Ideal as outlined by our many Budgerigar groups.
While the fancy bemoans the diminishing number of fanciers in the hobby and attempts to attract new members, the use or need of artificial insemination as a method of breeding budgerigars must certainly be a significant “turn-off” to any prospective newbie.
Each Budgerigar Society has its own set of rules and regulations; shouldn’t one of those rules be Mother Nature’s? Why modify the regulations when natural reproduction has suited the budgerigar well for millions of years?
It is not difficult to mate a randy cock with a large number of hens in a short amount of time; if he fills all of the eggs with all of his partners, you know you are breeding for fertility at the very least. If such a prolific cock is also a good show bird, you’re on the right track. So, why is it necessary to use AI? How can you ban the selling of frozen sperm after artificial insemination is legal in the hobby? If frozen sperm becomes widely accessible, the general quality of budgerigars will swiftly increase; where will the hobby go next? How can competition take place if all budgerigars look the same? As things are, there can only be one Best in Show, and long may that continue.
If the Budgerigar Society allowed artificial insemination, it would become the trendy “thing to do” in the hobby. With the existing issue of low fertility so pervasive, fertility levels would decline much more in a few of years, even with artificial insemination. Exhibition budgerigar breeding as a hobby would be extinct. Unless a breeding scheme similar to that used for dairy cow production is utilized, artificial insemination will increase the “look” of the budgerigar while simultaneously decreasing fertility. Most budgerigar breeders, in my view, have been reluctant or unable to pursue a logical breeding program in the past, neglecting fertility as the most essential trait of any bird meant for future mating, resulting in the current issue of low fertility. Artificial insemination would be the ultimate act of a drowning man grabbing at straws in an effort to address the issue of infertility.
While the Budgerigar Society prohibits artificial insemination, the crime is being prosecuted. Without a doubt, a few breeders use artificial insemination on occasion. If individuals who covertly use artificial insemination are successful, they would be successful even if they did not employ the technology since they are following some predetermined breeding program (including fertility), and that is their success. Those who employ artificial insemination fail create their own demise by their ignorance and foolishness. While AI is prohibited by the Budgerigar Society, such idiots may only suffer in quiet, which I believe is the best option.
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