Ah yes, the joys of farming: waking up at the crack of dawn, milking the cows, collecting eggs from the chickens ... and artificially inseminating emus. Well, that's if you happen to be an emu farmer.

In many ways, that's the role University of Western Australia biologist Irek Malecki has taken up. For the past several years, Malecki has been training emus to get busy with an artificial cloaca (the all-purpose orifice birds use for sex and waste) of his own design, which can be used to collect semen for artificial insemination. 

In this video, uploaded by YouTuber Kyva Go, Malecki gives us an important lesson on how he gets his adult males to do the deed. After enduring a bit of humorous courting, he manages to collect a sample that can be frozen and used to inseminate females down the line. It's a tough job, but Malecki's continued research could one day have important conservation applications:  like boosting the numbers of threatened bird species such as Australia's unique megapodes.

The semen-storing techniques are also good for us humans. Emu farming has become more popular in recent years as the big birds provide useful products such as eggs, meat, fat, feathers, and even their skin. Malecki explains, however, that farming emus does come at a cost. Emus are monogamous creatures, which means for every female on a farm there needs to be a breeding male. As you can imagine, that gets expensive. Through artificial insemination, those costs can be brought down considerably because farmers don't have to house as many animals. 

But it doesn't stop there: through artificial insemination, we can improve the health of emu populations by widening the gene pool. A farmer in one location can share his specimens with a farmer in another, which can help to slow the effects of inbreeding. 

h/t: Gizmodo


Top header image: David Jenkins/Flickr