Breeding is good

Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.
Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.

Breeding is very important on a dairy farm.

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.

Hazmat suit needed?

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Working in the milking parlor everyday can be a bit of a hazard.

Standing at a lower level than the cows allows for all kinds of nasties to be splattered your way.

It’s not uncommon for my co-worker to holler, “Incoming!”

That’s like a code red for get out of the way, a cow is going to relieve herself in your area.

Most of the time the splattering isn’t all that grand. A healthy cow will leave a very well-laid-out pile.

Now, the sick cows leave a very chaotic pattern, probably because they have a very chaotic pattern going on in their tummies.

It’s not uncommon, as awful as it sounds, for manure to splatter onto a face, for example. It should also be noted that it doesn’t take long to learn to face away from the splatter, until you no longer here it splattering.

Wednesday morning the cows were a bit on edge. Hubby was at meetings, so we had a replacement milker for him by the name of Tarah.

She must smell better than Hubby, because the cows sure knew something was amiss in the milking parlor.

When something is amiss in the parlor, there is a heckuva lot more splattering.

It just so happened that Tarah was up in the holding area bringing cows into the milking parlor when the word “Incoming!” should have been shouted.

It landed in my eye.

Now, there was no burning sensation and it didn’t feel like anything from within the poo was scratching my eyeball, so I figured no harm  done.

I continued, and finished the milking chores without a hitch.

I didn’t sleep worth a hoot Tuesday night. The first thing I did after milking this particular Wednesday was shower up and climb back into bed for a quick nap. (Quick turned into an hour and it still wasn’t even 11 a.m.)

I woke up feeling even more tired, made a pot of coffee and ventured into the biffy.

I peered into the mirror and was horrified.

My contaminated eye was redder than red can be. It doesn’t hurt.

It’s just red.

I may have to consider using goggles as a piece of safety equipment. 



Minnesota Winters on a Minnesota Dairy Farm

We all like to complain and we all like to brag.

When it comes to living in the Winter Wonderland we call Minnesota, we like to do both excessively. Living and working on a dairy farm gives my double the capacity.

We dairy farmers like to complain when it’s hot. We like to complain when it’s cold.

Right now it’s really, really cold. It’s so cold that throwing a cup of boiling water into the air, doesn’t make it vaporize; we have to watch for falling ice chunks in the shape of a coffee mug.

Just kidding. The water doesn’t fall in ice cubes.

Winter does make it a bit more challenging to get some things done. The difference between the air temperature in the milking parlor and the air temperature in the cow-holding area create clouds.

Water hoses freeze.

Cows don’t  want to leave the tepid temperature in the milking parlor to go outside into the freezing temperature. They crap more in the milking parlor, which means our clothing looks like it’s polka dotted.

We enjoy milking cows. Milking in Minnesota makes us tougher.

It gives us a reason to brag.

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