September 2015 Newsletter: White-Tailed Deer Artificial Insemination

Factors that affect A.I. success in White-tailed deer

Artificial Insemination in White-Tailed Deer

Jacques Fuselier, DVM, DABVP, DACT

Paul A. Whittington, DVM

Whittington Veterinary Clinic


There are many factors that affect pregnancy results following artificial insemination (A.I.) in White-tailed Deer (WTD).  Understanding these factors help White-Tailed Deer producers and veterinarians improve the success of a reproductive program.

  White-tailed deer are what are considered R-Selected species. Deer of this species are smaller bodied with an average breeding life of 10 years or less and typically have multiple offspring per pregnancy. White-tailed deer do not breed year-round like cattle. Instead, they only breed in the fall when the day length is short. Shorter periods of day light stimulate the release of a hormone called melatonin. Increasing amounts of melatonin ultimately cause a release of other reproductive hormones from the brain that act on the ovaries. The ovaries, in turn, produce additional reproductive hormones that allow a complete estrus cycle and ovulation. When we A.I. deer, we must consider these natural reproductive patterns and use them to our advantage to maximize the chance of pregnancies. Because WTD do not actively show signs of estrus (heat), we usually synchronize their estrus cycles by giving hormones in a manner that closely resembles what occurs naturally. This allows us to A.I. these deer at a time close to the predicted ovulation. Because of this, it is imperative that deer producers work closely with a veterinarian that understands deer reproductive physiology.

Important factors for an A.I. program:


Proper doe nutrition is a must for a successful White-Tailed Deer A.I. Does in poor condition do not produce the appropriate amount and quality of necessary hormones to establish and maintain a pregnancy. By the same right, does that are too fat do not breed well either. It is important that does are fed a properly formulated diet in the weeks leading up to the time of breeding and throughout pregnancy.

Current or previous illness:

  White-Tailed Deer have an amazing ability to hide slight, “smoldering” infections. If they had an illness in the months prior to breeding (EHD, Bluetongue, pneumonia, chronic lameness), they may still have a low-lying infection that has not completely cleared. This can have negative effects on breeding success. Some of these deer are more prone to death or other complications following anesthesia for laparoscopic A.I. (LapAI). Along those same lines, sick deer at the time of breeding are not good candidates for Artificial Insemination.


(picture of a skinny non healthy White-Tailed Deer aka not a candidate for successful breeding)

Synchronization Protocol:

Improperly formulated protocols will not allow for appropriate timing of A.I. and lead to fewer White-Tailed Deer pregnancies. Also, if the protocols are not properly followed, or the hormones used are ineffective, the protocol will fail. It is important to note that not all deer will properly respond to a properly developed breeding protocol. Sometimes we cannot beat Mother Nature.

white-tailed deer ai

(picture of Cidr one of the agents used to synchronize White-Tailed Deer estrus cycle)

Semen Quality:

This plays a HUGE role in White-Tailed Deer breeding success. Poor semen will not make pregnancies. It is a must to have qualified people collect and process buck semen! Poorly developed semen should not be frozen or used. Handling of frozen semen is also very important. If the straws of semen do not stay at the proper temperature, the sperm will die, so one must be very careful when transferring straws of semen, as well as properly thawing semen at the time of insemination.

Transcervical AI in White-Tailed Deer

(picture of: Transcervical Artificial Insemination of White-Tailed Deer)

A.I. Technique:

  Deer should only be inseminated by properly trained people. Transcervical (vaginal) A.I. can provide descent results if performed properly on does known to conceive to this method of A.I. This method of insemination, however, provides fewer pregnancies per insemination than does LapAI.

 White-Tailed deer estrus cycle

(picture of Cidr one of the agents used to synchronize White-Tailed Deer estrus cycle)

Laparoscopic A.I. provides more pregnancies per inseminations. This technique is a surgical procedure, therefore can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian properly trained in this procedure. Proper anesthesia and positioning is required for this technique. The commonly used sedative, BAM, does not provide enough anesthesia for this type of procedure. One benefit to LapA I. is a doe can be bred with less semen and still have acceptable pregnancy results. A normal conception rate from LapAI is 70% or more. This is for healthy does in proper condition that received an appropriate synchronization protocol and are inseminated with high quality semen.

Inseminating White-Tailed Deerwhite tailed deer artificial insemination

(left picture of Dr. Fuselier Laparoscopic inseminating a White-Tailed Deer, right picture of Dr. Fuselier depositing semen in the uterine horn near the ovary of a White-Tailed Deer)

   Keep this information in mind and work closely with a veterinarian to prepare your deer for the upcoming breeding season.

   If you are interested in more general information or true research comparisons between the two methods for AI we will be happy to consult and show current scientific evidence.  Our LapAI schedule is filling up, so if you are interested please contact Dr. Fuselier.

 Happy Deer make Happy Babies!

Whittington Veterinary Clinic  1101 W. Port St. Abbeville, LA 70510  337-893-8522

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