Some veterinary surgeries offer on-site fertility assessment for breeding stock at farms and they rely on Linkam instruments.
These animal fertility assessments are crucial for animal husbandry in the UK; farmers need to know that their animals are healthy before the breeding season so that lambing and calving can be organised effectively. Tup, or sheep, testing is often conducted in the autumn and bull testing occurs in the spring.
Relying on a sub-fertile male to fertilise a large herd can be disastrous: farmers need to ensure all females are fertilised at the same time so that all young are born in a set period. This means the farmer maximises the productivity of his herd, and reduces both the risk of disease and labour costs associated with monitoring the animals during this vulnerable period. The concentration, motility and morphology of sperm are universal indicators of fertility- regardless of the species of male.
But as readers of this blog may already know, sperm activity (including motility) is temperature dependent. To establish fertility, observations need to be carried out at body temperature in order to mimic conditions within the body; for humans, bulls and tups this is exactly 37°C.
In the summer vets can rely on speed, skill and summer warmth to keep their samples alive long enough to observe, but as the winter chill hits the UK, it becomes a race against time. Cold weather has a devastating effect on sperm testing – sperm slow and die, being highly susceptible to cold shock. The use of a precise, accurate heated warm stage is an essential part of the assessment in winter.
Linkam’s warm stages provide a solution to this as they are designed to hold a specified temperature to +/- 0.1°C from ambient to 60°C. A platinum resistor temperature sensor is used for higher accuracy and stability and a sophisticated CAD designed bi-filar heating element covers the entire working surface which provides uniform temperature distribution in the sample. Some of the larger farms have microscopes on-site and can view the samples directly while the veterinary surgeries also have official laboratories.
The Linkam stage gives the assessor the confidence that all samples are observed at a stable, set temperature making the Linkam stage a necessary key tool for anyone wanting to look at fertility – animal or otherwise- in or out of the lab.
By Caroline Feltham