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My dad has me booked every Tuesday and Friday this month. These days are devoted to preparing cows and getting them bred. They are also spent bringing the cattle in from the pasture and sorting them away from their calves for a couple hours while we work the cows. Our herd is entirely artificially inseminated (AI) and then turned out with a bull a week or two after they have been bred. This is to ensure that if the AI didn’t “stick” they can be bred naturally by a bull.

Using this breeding technique can be beneficial to ranchers in more ways than one. By AI-ing cows we are able to have a wide variety of quality genetics in our herd quickly. This way there’s no need to buy each bull with desirable genetic traits. By AI-ing we’re able to increase calf uniformity, herd productivity, reproductive performance and weaning weight. An AI program may get our calves a better sire than we could afford to own.

Bottom line, a good AI program can help a ranch achieve better calves at calving season, which results in better beef on your plate.

Breeding is not typically the most glamorous job on the farm. It’s messy…and can be somewhat time consuming. 

When AI-ing a cow, you have to be gentle and take your time. A majority of the time breeding is spent locating the cervix with your left arm through the rectum. Once you have a hold of the cervix you take your right hand, which is holding the insemination gun, and insert it into the cow and place the end of the gun into the cervix. The pictures above give some detail of how glamorous it truly can be 🙂 

My job is to load the insemination guns. 

This is called a semen tank. It does exactly as it sounds holds semen. Inside the tank are straws of semen placed in canisters sitting in liquid nitrogen. It is very important the semen stays frozen until right before we place it inside the cow.

My thumbs usually don’t have any feeling in them by the end of the day

After I remove the semen from the tank it goes into the warmer where it is thawed in 95 degree water for 45 seconds. If the semen is left out too long, it dies. If the semen is not thawed enough before inserting into the cow, it’s dead. Rule of thumb is only thaw enough straws you will use in 10-15 minutes. 

After thawing, the semen it is placed inside the gun and sealed with a plastic sheath. From there is it handed to our AI guy and the rest is history 🙂 

When February rolls around we get to start the calving process all over again.

Here’s to hoping these next nine months go by very slowly.

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