This past weekend a very sharp 11 year old girl asked me: “Where are the boy cows on the farm?”
I should have known that this was a trap. Because, on hearing that we don’t have any ‘boy cows’ on the farm (besides bottle calves), the next question was: “So, how do you get the cows pregnant?”
11 year old girl.
How do you get the cows pregnant?
Now, after several college level animal reproduction classes and 4 years or so of breeding dairy cows for a living, I know this answer inside and out.
Until an unfamiliar 11 year old girl asks.
What’s appropriate for an 11 year old? What does she already know? What do her parents think she should know? If I’m honest, that last one is really the kicker. I don’t want any trouble!
Luckily, this time around, the girl’s grandma jumped in with a couple of comments that let me know this girl had at least a little background in the topic and I was clear to openly discuss. But it got me thinking – how am I going to handle this in the future? How do I remain honest (because no, the stork doesn’t bring babies!) and yet not make any parents shudder and run away with hands covering child’s ears? Beyond just researching age appropriate material and language (that’s the easy part) – how do I gauge in 30 seconds or less the parents’ comfort level! I have yet to figure all of this out but in the mean time I thought I might as well turn it into a blog post.
**Please note: this is written with adults in mind – there is nothing graphic but if anatomically correct terminology bothers you … re-join us next week :)
So how do we get cows pregnant without a bull? We use artificial insemination of course! Why use A.I.? Because bulls are DANGEROUS! Especially Jersey bulls. Jersey cows are fairly docile and curious but the bulls are some of the meanest around. Another reason for using A.I. is to increase genetic diversity in your herd. Instead of using 1 or 2 bulls to breed the whole herd you can use as many different bulls as you like and switch up the lineup from year to year.
Ok, so you’ve found a cow in heat. NOW what? Well, now you warm up the straw filled with semen in a warm water bath and then load it into your AI gun. Gun?! That sounds scary right?? It’s not. An AI gun is just a thin metal rod that is small enough to fit through the cervix of the cow without causing harm. I should also mention that the rod is covered with a disposable plastic sheath that has a rounded tip. This for sanitation - the plastic sheath is changed in between every cow - no exceptions. It is also covers any sharp edges to protect the cow!
Up until now we’ve stayed pretty clean but that’s all about to end. Now it’s time to pull on that looong pink glove and gently insert your lubed (yes lubed – we’re not jerks!) hand into the cow’s rectum. I know that all sounds very mean but a cow’s rectum/intestine are rather large and easily accommodates a human arm – maybe not a sumo wrestler arm – you do have to be realistic. But why do this in the first place?? Because the intestinal walls are thin enough that we can feel the cow’s reproductive organs through them. This allows trained breeders to quickly and safely guide the AI gun through the vagina and cervix and juuuust inside the uterus where the semen is then deposited. And that’s it! Now all that’s left is to gently remove the gun from the cow, return her to the herd and clean up!
And on that note ..
Brun Ko Farm
P.S. Special thanks to that 11 year old girl! Never stop asking questions!!