The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) thru its national bull farm located in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija exerts efforts to produce quality semen for widescale Artificial Insemination (AI) in support of its Genetic Improvement Program (GIP).
Successful AI and GIP necessitate quality semen, which is anchored on proper donor bull management practices.
According to bull farm manager Hernando Venturina, included in the farm operations are regular vaccinations of bulls, shaving, disinfection, spraying of vehicles entering the farm for biosecurity, regular monitoring of feeding activities, close monitoring of the bulls’ Body Condition Scores or BCS, and their capability to mount (they should not be overweight).
Heavy bulls are provided with ‘exercise ring’ – a metallic equipment that allows the bulls to walk in circular motion to lose weight and at the same time strengthen their legs. Venturina proudly says that the national bull farm is the only farm in the country that has this kind of facility.
He also added that, “another important factor to pay attention to is the monitoring of personnel who takes care of the bulls. This has a very big impact on the farm operations, especially to the bulls’ health.”
Bull farm facility and efforts for GIP
In summary, the bull farm serves as the source of superior semen for AI of water buffaloes throughout the country. Currently, it has 67 bulls, 57 of which are enough to supply the needs for frozen semen.
In support of this function, the national bull farm also has a facility called ‘semen processing laboratory’ where semen are being evaluated after twice-a-week collection from the bulls. It also caters to the needs of semen of the PCC regional centers by way of a systematic semen distribution. The latter is carried out by PCC regional centers with the help of the Local Government Units (LGUs) to eventually reach the Village-based Artificial Insemination Technicians (VBAITs).
As a result, the bull farm creates impact throughout the Philippines by adding value to the carabaos through crossbreeding.
Its impact does not only reach VBAITs and dairy farmers in rural communities, but goes along with a major aim of producing improved breeds of buffaloes in the Philippines.
Semen processing procedure
The semen collection is done every Tuesdays and Fridays. Before the semen goes through a processing, it must first undergo an evaluation, either subjectively or through the Computer Assisted Semen Analyzer, for sperm movement or motility. The PCC has standards for each evaluation tests.
The semen must have at least 60% motile sperm and a concentrate of not less than 500 million sperm cells per millimeter. Even when sperm motility gets high, still, a standard concentration is needed to assure the sperm quality suitable for AI. Around 50 million sperms are being put per straw.
The concentration and motility level are two main criteria to look for in assessing the quality of semen.
Processing and freezing of semen with liquid nitrogen in tanks under -196°C happens for almost 8 hours before it finally moves into final/post-evaluation the next day. The standard postthaw motility at PCC is 30% but most of the processed semen reaches around 40-50%.
All semen that did not pass evaluations and meet the standards are discarded properly to ensure that semen to be distributed all over the Philippines are of quality and underwent proper processing procedures.
After the semen quality evaluation, it is stored in a semen tank. Inventory takes place during this time, wherein all semen must have a traceability indicating the processing date. So if for example, laboratory personnel received complaints or feedbacks about the semen, they could easily detect why and retrieve details of semen processing, or might as well consider if it is concerning the bull where semen is collected from.
The production of sperm being processed is around 3,000 to 3,500 straws per collection day and these are sent to the PCC national headquarters and regional centers for appropriate distribution to the technicians.