Also known as artificial insemination (AI) technician.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
Cow health and wellbeing are priorities on a dairy farm, as poor health can lead to a range of illnesses and problems, such as poor fertility.
Some health problems can be caused by external factors, such as pathogens, which cause disease, whereas others are passed down through genes. Therefore, many dairy farms in the UK now use artificial insemination (AI) for their dairy cows as it provides the farmer access to the best bull genetics, such as good health traits, fertility, milk production, and behaviour.
As a breeding technician, you would need to have good experience working with cattle. You will be fully trained in how to safely inseminate cows using straws of semen collected from the selected bull.
AI bulls are also carefully monitored for any genetic issue that may be passed down to their offspring. Selecting bulls that are well-behaved or those that have not developed horns can also provide improved safety to those who work closely with the livestock.
When a cow is at her most fertile, she will show specific signs of behaviour known as ‘heat.’ This is when she is most likely to conceive. As a breeding technician, you would be responsible for monitoring the dairy herd, identifying any signs of heat, and ensuring the safe handling and thawing of semen straws that have been stored in liquid nitrogen.
Other livestock, such as sheep, pigs, or cattle that are raised for meat, can also be artificially inseminated.
You’ll be part of a team, working with the farm manager, owner, vets, and nutritionists to achieve the best results. Good communication skills are essential to identify any issues and relay data.
There are opportunities to work on one specific farm, especially if the herd is large, or you could also choose to work for a cattle genetics business where you would visit different farms. For this role, you will need to have a full driver’s licence, although a work vehicle is usually provided.
As a breeding technician, your responsibilities might include:
- Monitoring individual cow breeding cycles and recording observations
- Identifying appropriate timing for AI by correctly identifying peak fertility times
- Utilising traditional chalk and technology heat monitoring systems for identifying heat in cows
- Being responsible for the fertility data of all cows and preparing reports where required
- Carrying out the AI process in a quick and accurate manner while maintaining the welfare of livestock
- Working with due care and attention around livestock at all times
- Keeping up-to-date and accurate records of all cows that have been inseminated
- Reporting any issues relating to health and safety and animal health and welfare to the farm management team
- Working closely with the farm management team to develop and oversee the livestock breeding plan and make recommendations
- Safely handling all AI equipment and materials
- Following farm protocols for health and safety to always ensure the wellbeing of yourself and others
- Following farm protocols for animal health and wellbeing and environmental protection at all times
To work as a breeding technician, you should be:
- Able to work effectively in a calm manner
- Able to work under own initiative
- Highly organised and able to overcome challenges
- Able to listen well and communicate effectively
- Able to react quickly and effectively to situations
- Able to identify opportunities and make recommendations
- Have good attention to detail and be able to spot issues
To become a breeding technician, you do not necessarily require a degree or other animal science or agriculture qualification. However, you will require previous experience working with cattle and a good understanding of cattle health, welfare, and production.
You must also be fully trained in the AI of livestock. You may be offered training by your employer, or you could consider doing a course (usually three days) with a local training provider or veterinary practice that specialises in livestock.
You could also consider a relevant apprenticeship where you could develop knowledge and skills in livestock health.
As a breeding technician, you’ll have the following competencies in relation to taking responsibility for the successful breeding of livestock through effective AI techniques. You will:
- Utilise technology to enhance the business and production
- Support the management of the business to ensure financial sustainability
- Support the management to control the quality of farm production
- Always promote good welfare and environmental practice
- Ensure regulations for health and safety, and good physical and emotional wellbeing are maintained throughout the business
- Support the management of livestock production through knowledge and skills which ensure the successful breeding of livestock
Salaries are in the region of £17,000 to £23,000 for an entry-level position. This can raise up to £30,000 to £45,000 for highly experienced breeding technicians, especially if they have a high success rate.
As a breeding technician, you may choose to gain further experience in your role by working for a genetics business where you would provide AI services across many farms. This role would particularly suit someone who enjoys building customer relationships with different farmers.
You could also explore other roles on the farm, such as senior herdsperson or herd manager. However, if you enjoy the scientific nature of livestock breeding, there are many opportunities within businesses that specialise in livestock genetics, such as roles within sales, lab services, and genomic testing. Some of these roles may require a specific qualification.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture
BSc Agricultural and Livestock Science
BSc Animal Science
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.