The primary objective of this research was to study the effects of breed, age, season, and their interactions on semen morphological characteristics. The study was done on 329 bulls (271 Friesland and 58 Jersey) aged 12, 24, 36,48, 60, 72, 84, 96 and> 96 months. The collection of semen was carried out using the artificial vagina method in all four seasons of the year. Spermatozoa were screened for the percentages normal sperm, percentage and total major defects such as knobbed acrosome, pyriform, abnormal lose head, dag defects, nuclear vacuole, degenerative heads, mid-piece reflexes, percentages and total minor defects such as normal lose heads, distal droplets, curled end-piece, lose acrosome. Statistical analyses of the data were done using the general linear model (GLM) procedure of the Statistical Analyses System (SAS, 1999). The results of the study indicate that breed did not significantly affected the percentage normal sperm and percentage major sperm defects, but significantly affected the percentage minor defects (P = 0.01). The Least square means (LSM±SE) for the percentage normal sperm, major defects and minor defects in Friesland and Jersey bulls were 80.6 ±1.06%; versus 78.9±2.31 %; 14.8±0.90% versus 15.0± 2.62%, 5.1±0.43% versus 7.6±0.94%, respectively. The results obtained show that the prevalence of sperm defects that differed significantly between breeds was higher in Jersey bulls compared to Friesland bulls. The results of the study indicated the percentage of normal sperm to differ (P = 0.01) with season. The percentage of normal sperm during the summer, autumn, winter and spring, were 72.8±1.6%, 79.4±2.2%, 82.5±2.4% and 84.4±2.4% respectively. Season also affected the percentage of major defects (P = 0.01) and percentage of minor defects (P = 0.03). The results demonstrate that even though there was a higher variation in sperm morphology with season, better sperm morphology was recorded in spring and winter than summer and autumn. Results also indicate the percentage of normal sperm (P = 0.05) and major defects (P = 0.01) to be affected significantly by age. On the other hand, the percentage of minor defects did not differ significantly with age. Bulls of 36-48 months of age showed better semen quality than bulls older than 72 months and bulls younger than 36 months. The percentage of major defects, particularly the incidence of major defects such as knobbed acrosomes, pyriforms, dag defects and broken flagella were significantly affected by the interaction between age and breed (P = 0.05) and age and season (P = 0.05). There was an increase in the susceptibility to these sperm defects in Jersey bulls with an increase in age, while no variation was observed in Friesland bulls. With age and season combined, young bulls recorded poor semen morphology during winter, while old bulls showed poor morphology during summer. In conclusion, the study suggested that breed, age and season and their interactions are important sources of variation in sperm morphology. For a successful AI programme, semen collection should be done at the age of 36-48 months for both breeds. It is therefore recommended that age, breed and season should be given urgent attention in any bull management system employed in South Africa in order to obtain the best semen quality.
Dissertation (M Inst Agrar (Animal Production))--University of Pretoria, 2006.