Intro to Artificial Insemination

The semen tank at my vet’s clinic holds liquid nitrogen to keep the units of bull sperm super cold until AI time.

I keep asking Sienna if she having any morning sickness, weird cravings, or other signs of pregnancy, but she remains silent on the issue. After her artificial insemination procedure on Oct. 14, I have to wait 35 days to find out if it took.

Before attempting AI for my family milk cow, I suppose you could say I had somewhat of a crash course on the subject. I wrote about that in my last post, “Searching for Semen.” I’m hoping the procedure will turn out to be a success. Not to worry. I was not actually the person who performed my cow’s AI. The “semen technician” I used was my trusted veterinarian. I figure he was well-acquainted with the back end of a cow.

Since owning Sienna, I’ve only bred her “naturally” and had crossbred calves. Since she was not bred to a dairy bull, I haven’t gotten a dairy calf out of her. This time around, I wanted to change that. We do not own a dairy bull and don’t intend to. (Click here for the story on that train wreck.) So, gender-select AI seemed like a great option to get another milk cow. Gender-select semen or “sexed semen” has a 96-percent chance of producing a heifer. Jerseys and Holsteins are very common in my area. I wanted to try a different breed, one that was more hardy and less inbred. I figured if I crossbred my Jersey with a Guernsey I could, hopefully, get a more hardy milk cow. 

My husband administers the second hormone shot at our farm, so Sienna will go into heat.

But first, the pregnancy has to take, obviously. What I did not know about using sexed semen was that, accordingly to my vet, there is only a 50 percent chance of the AI resulting in a pregnancy. I was a little discouraged by this. After you spend the time and money on AI, you don’t want to hear there’s only a 50/50 chance that it will work. 

First, we took Sienna to the vet clinic so she could be palpated and then given her first hormone shot. The vet palpated her to make sure she was “open,” and to check for any obvious breeding issues. (Open means not pregnant.) Ten days later, my husband administered the second shot while Sienna was in the stanchion. She was not a fan of that. (He’s usually the bad guy when it comes to these type of procedures.)

The vet administers a unit of semen into Sienna.

We were told to bring Sienna back to the vet 72 hours after giving her the second shot. So, three days after the second shot, we loaded Sienna up in the trailer and returned to the clinic. The vet administered two units into Sienna, and the deed was done. He said he could tell Sienna was in full heat, so that was a good sign. The units looked like very small, narrow tubes.  

Now, we are playing the waiting game. I have to keep Sienna separate from the herd, because we are borrowing a bull again to breed the rest of our cows. Until I find out that she’s pregnant, I don’t want to risk Sienna getting bred the old-fashioned way with a non-dairy bull. She should know better, but you can’t tell these girls anything these days.

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