Maybe, I should reword that to read, “Breeding cows is very important on a dairy farm.”
Yes, I think that sounds better.
So, when a cow has reproductive issues and Steve and Zach have a hard time getting a cow pregnant, they call in the expert.
That would be me. I consider myself an expert, but the “others” just laugh at me when I say that.
(OK, seriously, I am not an expert, but my numbers are impressive.)
I have a 50 percent conception rate when I artificially inseminate cows.
Seriously! That’s an amazing number!
On average, most people who artificially inseminate cows to get them pregnant will have approximately a 30 percent conception rate.
I am very proud that I have successfully impregnated three of six cows.
Such is the case with our Jersey cow Amy.
Both Steve and Zach were having a hard time getting her to settle. (That’s what we call it when a cow is confirmed pregnant.) If a cow doesn’t get pregnant when she should it costs us in lost semen and lost milk production down the road because she will be so many days in milk. The longer a cow is milked, the less milk she produces.
Believe me, getting Amy pregnant was no easy task for me either. I made several rookie mistakes.
I had absolutely no problem getting prepared for artificially inseminating Amy. I warmed the semen straw in the automatic heater. I tucked the insemination gun in the front of my pants to get it warm.
I don’t know why the tool is called a gun. It’s more like a really thin and long syringe and has no capability of “shooting” the semen into the cow. There is no gun powder involved when inseminating a cow. Rest assured no animals were harmed during this entire breeding process.
A long tube of plastic is also shoved down the front of my Carhartt jeans. This time, if I recall correctly, I shoved all the equipment that needs to be kept warm, through my sports bra and into my pants. Hey, it was super cold outside and cold equipment kills those invaluable little sperm. The temperature of all the equipment needs to be body temperature.
Amy was in the perfect spot when I walked into the housing barn – first stall by the gate. I carefully cleaned her back-end with paper towels. (I think cows need Cottenelle. I mean the bears on television have Charmin.)
I inserted the insemination gun into her girl-cow parts and yelled, “Bang.”
Just kidding. If i did that she would probably haul off and kick me.
Once I had properly inserted the insemination gun containing the semen I had to work the tool through the through the cervix. A cow’s cervix is all lumpy and wavy and, if you lucky, it’s not what they call “tipped.”
Because I was manipulating the gun with my right arm, my left arm was in Amy’s rectum, which makes it possible to feel for her cervix. Amy’s cervix was tipped toward the ground, and a bit to the right.
The key to successfully getting a cow pregnant using artificial insemination is getting the semen in the correct area.
A cow’s cervix and uterus are shaped like the letter “Y.” The semen needs to be deposited right where the “arms” of the “Y” reach for the sky. That’s now a lot of space. Using my left hand to feel around, you can tell when you pass through the cervix, then you pull the gun back and sloooooowly deposit the semen using the plunger on the gun.
I was struggling a bit, so I called Steve over to see if he could help me out. Believe me, that’s the last thing I wanted to do.
“Um honey,” he said. “The plunger on the gun is pushed in. You need to start over.” Essentially, I deposited the semen long before I reached the “Y” in the road.
I trudged all the way back to the milk house and prepared another straw of semen, a pipette and the gun for the second time.
I trudged back to the barn and proceeded to start the insemination process all over again.
It again took me a while, but I managed to accomplish the deposition of the semen in the correct spot.
But something still felt kind of funny in my pants. Remember, I kept all my equipment in there.
I pulled it out and it was the first straw of semen that I assumed I had placed inside the cow.
The bad news…this semen cost 25 dollars per one-quarter cc straw. The other bad news…it was actually Zach that had purchased this expensive straw of semen to use on his cows. More bad news? The semen was actually sexed semen, which means the boys have been separated from the girls.
I could do nothing but hope and pray that Amy settled.
And by golly, Monday morning the vet confirmed with an ultrasound that Amy is just over one month into her pregnancy.
Of course I ran around the farm like Rocky and claimed to be the champion cow breeder. I even did what I refer to as the “Expert Dance.”
“If you’re so good, you can breed Pontiac this Thursday,” Zach said.
I’m all in. Pontiac is Joey’s cow and I am going to work my magic. Besides, I want to my dance again.
So, I recently attended a Champions of Dairy workshop in the Windy City.
It’s good to go gather with industry professionals to talk and learn about all the fun interesting things dairy producers are doing to promote the dairy industry. I mean, who knew I had to go to Chicago to be the registered dietitian from Hy-Vee in Mankato, a town just a few miles down the road from our farm.
During the workshops, I felt a bit…..I’m not sure what i felt. I wasn’t angry, happy, disappointed.
If you know me, you know I am very upfront about a lot of ideas and feelings.
If you have a piece of food sitting smack-dab in the middle of your chin, you can bet I will tell you Mr. Pizza Bit is taking all the attention away from your beautiful face.
I mean, really, if you come upon someone that has a Pizza Bit on his or her face, that’s all you can see while holding a conversation. You feel bad because you know he or she has absolutely no clue this horrendous, ugly bit is hanging around and being an attention-getting hog.You realize that if it were you that had that disturbing little bit of food on your chin, you would want to know.
I respect anyone that has the guts to say, “Hey Kerry, you have a huge smudge of ketchup on your left cheek.”
I say huge, because, with me there is no such thing as a small smudge of ketchup on my face. And it’s probably not just on my face, it’s more than likely also going to be on my favorite white shirt.
I trust people who can say it like it is.
So I was a bit confused by what I was learning at this workshop. Seems many of them think there are topics that should be avoided unless someone brings it forward.
We were discussing farm tours. We host so many visitors out here, I may as well purchase a tour bus and deck it out like I’m as famous as Tim McGraw and need a bus to match.
Imagine the bling! It gives me bling-ching…it’s a chill that makes me want to Bedazzle everything!
Anyway, during this workshop several farmers were telling their story of giving tours. They didn’t like to take people into their milking parlor, because cows poop in the parlor.
They don’t talk about treating a sick animal with antibiotics.
They don’t talk about boosting their economic base with the use of rBGH. (Although,we are considering not using this on our cows because it is becoming economically unfeasible. It’s very expensive to use.)
They don’t talk about cows that are lying on the ground and unable to get up.
That is, unless someone on the tour asks about these touchy subjects.
Aren’t all of these topics in the forefront? Don’t you, the consumer want to know exactly this type of information?
If you have ever been on a tour our here on the splendid grounds of SKH, Inc., you know I don’t mince my words.
I tell you we treat cows with antibiotics and I also show you how we segregate milk produced from those treated cows.
I tell you that you shouldn’t work on a dairy farm if you don’t like being crapped on while putting the milking unit on a certain cow. If you don’t like getting splattered with cow pee, don’t take a job harvesting white gold.
I also explain how we keep our parlor clean, even during the milking process with water hoses and pressure washing. We have to our milk inspector that comes unannounced says we have to…it’s the law.
I tell you that I drink milk from my bulk tank because I trust the milk that I am producing and I know I won’t get ill. I also tell you that you shouldn’t drink milk from my bulk tank because you don’t work with my cows. I have immunity from being splattered with aforementioned manure and such.
I am very transparent.
So what I am looking for is guidance from all my readers and from those that have been on tours on our farm.
Do you like that I am very transparent and that you get to see life on the farm as it is, or should I tame it down a bit?
What do, or did, you like about the tours we have given?
Please be gentle on Steve. I know he gives the extended version of tours and I give the quick tours, and that’s OK. Those of you that want details would thoroughly enjoy a “Steve Tour.”
Please give me your feed back. I have another tour coming up and I want to know how I should shape our presentation.
If you recall, last week (Well, I think it was last week.) Steve and I had placed a bet in the milking parlor regarding the quality of our milk.
He switched the teat dip we use on the cow before and after they are milked. Remember, the post dip smells like a Dreamsicle.
It still does and that color of orange that it is, well that’s enough to make a person smile every morning.
Well, it appears to me that I am winning the bet. I haven’t started counting my money jars and loose change at the bottom of my purse.
Even though I am ahead in the contest, I couldn’t be more frustrated.
I am the kind of girl that says, “Well, that’s not working. Let’s move on. Can we switch back to the iodine dips now?”
“No. I want information. We are waiting until the milk tester comes in 10 days to see what is going on,” Steve said. “If there are a bunch of new infections in cows, we will switch.”
That’s what I find so frustrating.
We’ve been through teat-dip experiments before and they all end up the same way.
To me, it’s blatantly obvious the foaming pre-dip and popsicle-like post dip are not working. The filter that keeps all the gobledy-gook out of the bulk tank was full of infection indicators. Those little indicators look like curdled milk.
Through a piece of paper in front of me that contains a bunch of numbers and other information and it’s like my mind freezes up.
I don’t have time to analyze all that info.
We have tested the milking equipment and that has been adjusted accordingly. Apparently, the vacuum, which is needed to collect the milk from the cow and send it through the pipeline, was set a bit low for the speed at which our cows were letting their milk down.
Oh, they have little computers they can hook up to individual units that measure all the intricacies of a milking unit.
If you thought milking was just about putting a unit on the cow and chatting or discussing the low down on politicians, children and supper, think again.
That was the old days; back when Steve and I were young. Now we are old and there is no time for standing around in the milking parlor.
So, here it is mid-experiment, I have to deal with 10 more days of cows getting mastitis.
And that directly affects my personal goal of keeping the quality of our milk well ahead of where it is right now.
You see, it’s not all fun and laughter out here on the farm.
It’s hard working with your spouse, especially when two people have such different personalities.
Every day I find myself trying my hardest not to get into a full-blown “discussion” with my favorite man in the whole wide world.
So this morning, he went his way.
And I am going mine.
Steve, Russell, our herdsman Zachery, my father and several others are working on cleaning out the compost barn. This involves two full days of moving compost out of the barn and spreading it on the field.
Our compost is amazing. Not only does it have a ton of food for this next year’s crops, it doesn’t smell all that much either.
Oh, living on the farm place allows one to totally appreciate the smell of organic fertilizer.
Those that live around the field where that fertilizer is spread can hardly smell anything.
Believe me, that is a relief to Steve and I. We don’t need to upset our neighbors.
We do our best to keep them all happy.
(I know I promised a story on my construction project here at home – still working on it. Will share soon. Patience is a virtue and is one that i don’t possess!)
Not only do dogs provide us with love on the farm, they also provide fun and rodent control.
Between Lilly, the black and white Great Dane; Ole, the rust-colored Pit Bull and Bob the Chocolate Lab, there is always something going on. Ole has such an expressive face. Lilly is just a big doof and Bob is always fairly serious; she’s a senior citizen.
These three dogs love to go swimming in the river. Not that Lilly and Ole are any good at it, but they do have fun. Bob still loves to do the infamous doggy paddle.
Our dogs keep away rats, cats and any other varmint that wanders to close to the farm. I KNOW THEY keep skunks at bay too. They come home smelling like Peppy le Pew often enough.
We love our dogs as if they are family because they are family.
I have spent more time outside helping with the cleaning out of our compost barn than I have ever spent doing that silly activity referred to as spring cleaning.
I clean portions of my house every day; I’ll just pick a day of usual cleaning and call it spring cleaning.
A true version of spring cleaning happens in the compost barn every spring and fall. Come February, we need to clean all of the used bedding out of the barn and haul it to nearby fields and spread it.
This task requires an army. OK, an army might be and exaggeration. Tuesday morning there were four of us participating.
One person was driving the tractor with the loader on it removing the bedding from the barn and loading it into the semi-trailers and manure spreader. That’s not that easy of a job, in my opinion. The manure in the barn is about four-feed deep and steams like something fierce.
Guess who was driving the tractor with the manure spreader? Me!
It’s been a long time since I have helped with this job.
Why? I don’t know.
Honestly, I really wasn’t looking forward to helping all that much. It’s time consuming and there are a million things I could be doing in the house.
When we haul manure, Steve likes the driver of the tractor to use the auto-steer, so the manure gets spread evenly across all areas of the snow-covered field.
“Don’t you just think of all the baby corn plants that will be growing in the field this spring?” Steve asked.
“Well, no. I am just thinking about not getting stuck in a snow drift!”
Normally I prefer to be alone when I am in a tractor. It’s good to sit in a nice quiet cab for hours.
Tuesday, solitude was out of the question! Digger and Eddie, our Rat Terriers, insisted on being inside the tractor with me, getting the passenger seat all full of soft, white doggy-hair.
It was kind of funny at one point. The field I was hauling manure to is quite lumpy. Digger was with me at the time and he popped up and out of the passenger chair when I hit a rather large frozen lump of dirt. He looked like a piece of popcorn. No animals were harmed during this procedure. He landed on his feet; he’s cat-like.
Using the auto-steer on the tractor was a benefit. I didn’t have to have my hands on the steering wheel all of the time. Out of grogginess-inducing boredom, on one trip past the mailbox I stopped to pick up The Journal. It was the Tuesday after a holiday, I knew there were at least two papers with fresh crossword puzzles. No mail on Sundays and no mail on holidays means two puzzles, and I like that!
I tried to fill in the tiny squares, but couldn’t get individual letters written in individual boxes. I am anal when it comes to crosswords – neat and orderly. My letters were unrecognizable.
I did have to kick the dogs out of the tractor cab several times, but in the end they always looked at me with those darn sad puppy eyes.
No kidding. Digger would climb up the steps on the tractor, hop onto the huge tires and look at me with those eyes, through the manure sprinkled windows.
Who can resist something like that?
Digger did figure out that if he laid across my lap as we drove across the field the bumps were not as body-wrenching. Every time he wanted to sit on my lap, again, he would just look at me.
In the end, I spent seven or eight hours hauling manure from the barn out to the fields. I was proud of my even spreading of those nutrients for the small corn plants in the spring.