Improving livestock production through semen health

Researchers at the University of Missouri say livestock semen extender and storage practices are lowering its quality and decreasing litter sizes.

Dr. Peter Sutovsky tells Brownfield freezing semen for storage and using extender to keep semen alive dilutes zinc in seminal fluid…

“That, of course, will affect the sperm and will affect the events that are regulated by sperm zinc,” he said. “Basically, when we freeze and thaw bull sperm, we talk about cryo-capacitation.”

Cryo-capacitation is when sperm cells are activated and move more rapidly to travel through the female reproductive system to reach the egg for fertilization. Sutovsky calls zinc a master-regulator of male to female sex cell binding.

Researcher Michal Zigo said when semen starts capacitating, only two outcomes can occur; the egg is fertilized, or the semen dies. He said capacitated sperm has the lifespan of four hours to less than an hour depending on species causing the need for a synchronized male and female sex encounter. Zigo says the process is synchronized in natural mating, but the timing is more likely to be wrong in artificial insemination.

“Incorrect synchronization can lead to poor fertilization rates and a decrease in litter size in litter bearing animals such as pigs,” Zigo said.

Sutovsky said further studying the role zinc plays in semen regulation can boost litter sizes and improve semen quality, increasing pork production and cattle A.I. success. The research studies both livestock and human reproductive health. Sutovsky said the biggest enemy to reproductive health is age.

Peter Sutovsky and Michal Zigo Interview

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