Thursday, May 1, 2014

Semen testing the bull, may not be suitable for children!

Remember Louie? He was our young bull last year and spent most of the summer in Meriden in a pasture with 6 comely lady heifers. When the pasture had run out of grass we brought the herd home and turned them out in our big pasture with big bull and all his ladies. They set about establishing who was boss....

....and the next day it seemed that Louie was king. He was lying inside the herd with all the cows swishing their tails to keep the flies off him.

While the old bull was relegated to the outskirts to fend for himself. 

How quickly the fall from grace can be.

This March we eagerly awaited the first babies out of Louie, the six heifers were in the luxury suite with full feed of silage and a well bedded barn for shelter. 

And we waited.

We made middle of night checks.

And we waited.

Finally, a calf! Great excitement fell over the kingdom as #10 produced her baby in record time and did all the motherly things a good cow does.

And we waited.

About 10 days later #3 produced her baby. More excitement, trumpets sounded and drums banged.

And we waited.

March moved into April and the old cows were getting close to calving so the rest of the heifers were moved out of the luxury suite and replaced with some very pregnant cows. Then one day Bruce saw one of the heifers bulling, meaning she was never bred. The kingdom was despondent, there would be no calf from her this year.

Finally a third heifer, #4, had a bouncing baby girl, more celebrating.

While the old cows were dropping calves right and left, we continued to watch and wait for Fancy, our beautiful Hereford and #13, a brown heifer, who were very large bellied but not producing any udder yet to signify an impending birth. As April came to a close, we realized that we might have a problem in Louie, with #5 being open and the other two so late, there is a possibility that they were bred by their father after they returned home from their summer vacation in Meriden. Maybe Louie is not the Lothario we thought he was, a conundrum indeed, what to do, what to do?

What any responsible cattleman would do is a semen check and a call to the vet set up an appointment for this morning. We thought it might be a chore getting Louie in the trailer but it couldn't have been easier. He remembered the fun time he had going to the pasture in Meriden in the trailer and was eager to go. At the vet clinic it took a little urging to get him through the corral set up and into the chute. Louie is a BIG BOY! He has a huge neck, they had a heck of a time locking him in the headgate, it's a good thing he has such a good disposition. Louie took all the prodding and tail pulling in good humor. He had no idea what awaited him!

I had no idea what awaited him! I'd heard about semen testing but never seen it and I wonder who came up with this? Who was the first person who tried this?

Mark, our vet and Louie's former owner, did an intimate examination of Louie's male parts first. Then, and I will put this as delicately as I can, he brought out a torpedo like thing, and it was BIG, greased it up and stuck it in Louie where the sun doesn't shine. They hooked up an electrical connection and it begins to vibrate, someone with a cup on a stick, is waiting to catch a sample, it didn't take long. We all traipsed past Louie who was drooling in the headgate, into the office lab to check the sample. Mark took one look and said, "Oh, he has swimmers!" Bruce and I had to go look and does he have swimmers, there were hundreds, possibly thousands! There's nothing wrong with Louie.

While Louie was confined, the vet gave him shots and poured for parasites, then they wrestled the headgate open again, it wasn't easy. Louie very calmly made his way out of the chute, walked to the trailer, looked around to see if there was any other way out, decided there wasn't and climbed back in the trailer.

"I'm ready to go home!"

Back home the big bull had to come over to see who was entering his territory and was ready to fight when he realized it was just Louie, who had a story to tell.

"You wouldn't believe what they did to me down there!"

#13, took pity on Louie.....

....and washed his head.

"Just tell me all about it, honey."

"They did WHAT??"

"Oh, my, I've never heard of such a thing!"

"You poor boy, come to Mama. I'll make it all better."

So we still don't know why Louie only got three bred while they were at Meriden, but Mark reminded us that the last two heifers have a 50/50 chance of getting bred by Louie when they were home. He said in the old days there was a lot of line breeding, cattlemen would breed cows to their father. At least we know Louie has a good crop of swimmers so we don't have to worry about replacing him and can send him to pasture with confidence.

We found this adorable little girl when we got back from the vets....

.....this is what makes all the work and worry worthwhile here on the farm.

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