A newly developed flow cytometric method for determination of sperm concentration and viability was tested in an insemination trial with cryopreserved bull sperm to establish the relationship between sperm viability and nonreturn rates. Semen for experimental inseminations was produced from 157 young sires (114 Holstein and 43 Jersey), each contributing 4 experimental semen collections. Straws containing approximately 15 x 10(6) motile sperm before freezing were used in 118,680 experimental inseminations performed by 254 artificial insemination technicians in 6352 Danish herds. Statistical analysis based on 44,946 experimental first inseminations showed that the major part (95.4%) of variation in the 56-day nonreturn rate (NRR56) was residual. Only 0.38% of the total variation in NRR56 was due to bulls and differences between ejaculate within bull. However, bulls were preselected, and a relatively high insemination dose was used. Correlations between sperm viability as assessed by flow cytometry and NRR56 was slightly lower than observed for microscopic assessment of sperm motility. However, flow cytometry makes it possible to achieve an objective and precise determination of sperm viability. It was therefore possible to calculate the effect on NRR56 provided selection of semen is based on the flow cytometric method. Three freezing extenders were used in this experiment, but a significant difference in NRR56 was not observed. Flow cytometric results for 1 extender (Biociphos Plus) indicated poorer sperm survival during postthaw incubation compared with Triladyl extender with whole and with clarified egg yolk.
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