“Good morning, ladies!” I called out cheerfully. I flipped on the barn lights. Sleepy cows rose and stretched and looked at me curiously. Except one: she thrust her head over the stall door and mooed.
Here’s a little known fact for you: Cows only moo when they are in need of something.
So I looked at her sharply. “What’s wrong, Maybelle? You can’t be hungry.” She focused intently on Annabelle, who was performing her morning toilet. “Ah, you’re in heat!”
In order to minimize the chaos a cow in heat causes, we kept her isolated and milked her last. At the last minute, I decided to leave her in the barn until I could call the vet to see if could come AI her.
AI stands for artificial insemination. While it’s maybe not the best thing for people, it sure does save a lot of trouble for cows! Our vet keeps the semen straws in a very cold tank at his office, and when we need one, he warms it, comes out to the farm, and impregnates the cow. It saves us having to keep a bull, and having to find a new bull every two years when his daughters are ready for breeding. It also gives us access to better quality sires than we’re likely to be able acquire as a live animals.
Alas, the vet is not always available on short notice, and I didn’t really expect him to make it over. Then again, it was a rather cold and windy day. Maybe most of his other farm work had been cancelled due to weather. I waited impatiently for the office to open at eight, while Maybelle paced and mooed in the confines of the barn.
I dialed at 8:03. (They never answer exactly at eight.) “Hello, would one of the good happen to be available to come AI a cow this morning?” I asked.
“Actually, yes!” the receptionist replied, much to my surprise. “Would ten o’clock be okay?”
“Perfect!” I exclaimed.
So Maybelle is bred! Hopefully. We’ll watch her carefully for signs of heat in about three weeks, to make sure the AI took. It usually does, so I’m not worried, but I need to make sure. And if it did take, that means that two of our four cows are bred for late fall calving this year. The other two will wait till May for Spring 2016 calving, unless I can catch Annabelle in the next few days. I’m finding fall calves to be all around better than spring, but I don’t want to deal with it too far into the winter!