Intra-uterine Insemination in Farm Animals and Humans


Author's address (for correspondence): Steven Verberckmoes, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. E-mail:


Artificial insemination (AI) is the oldest and currently most common technique in the assisted reproduction of animals and humans. The introduction of AI in farm animals was forced by sanitary reasons and the first large-scale applications with a commercial goal were performed in cattle in the late 1930s of last century. After the Second World War, cryopreservation of semen facilitated distribution and AI was mainly performed for economic reasons, especially in dairy cattle industry. In humans however, AI was initially performed in cases of physiological and psychological sexual dysfunction, but later on also in cases of infertility caused by immunological problems. Currently, the most common indications for intra-uterine insemination (IUI) in humans are unexplained infertility and male subfertility. In these cases, IUI is considered as the treatment of the first choice, before more invasive techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmatic sperm injection (ICSI) are used. In contrast with humans, the quantity and quality of semen produced by farm animals is much higher and permits dilution and production of several insemination doses per ejaculate. However, with the introduction of sex-sorted semen in farm animals, the same problem of low-quality semen as in humans has arisen. In cattle, pigs and horses, conventional insemination with low numbers of sex-sorted spermatozoa results in a significant decrease in fertility. To improve the fertility rates with this semen, new insemination techniques have been developed in order to deposit spermatozoa closer to the site of fertilization. In sows and mares the advantage of utero-tubal junction (UTJ) insemination has already been proven; however, in cattle it is still under investigation. In this review, the differences and similarities in the application of AI between animals and humans are discussed and as AI in farm animals is most successful in cattle, the situation in this species is elaborated the most.