AI and A2: Bad News

Last week, I had back to back bad news concerning my bovine. First, I found out that Sienna was not pregnant. Then, I found out that she did not carry the A2/A2 trait, as I had hoped. I will go into detail about these different topics next, but I didn’t want to bury the lead. (The retired reporter in me coming out.) 

A Neogen blood card is ready for me to blot Sienna’s blood, in vial, onto the paper. The card then gets mailed to Neogen for genetic testing.

As I posted about earlier, I tried to use artificial insemination to have my family milk cow bred this year. It was my first experience with this process. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful ― twice. I had the date circled on my calendar when I needed to bring Sienna back to the vet to get checked. The date was exactly 35 days after we brought her into the vet for AI. A few days prior to that date, Sienna came into heat. How did I know she was in heat? When I came outside to milk her that morning, she was “making eyes” at the bull from across the fence, she was allowing the steer that was in with her to mount her, and the whole time I milked her, the bull bawled and bawled for her to come back to him. This was all very disappointing. 

I took her back to the vet that day, and she received the AI treatment again (two bull semen units inserted into her back end). However, once again, before her date to be checked, she went into heat. This time, I simply allowed her to visit the bull. To quote Marvin Gaye, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” I do believe she was bred by our visiting bull, a white Charolais we borrowed to breed the rest of our herd. 

Our borrowed bull stays at our farm to breed our herd, including Sienna.

The vet informed me that there was only a 50 percent chance of Sienna getting bred via AI with sexed semen. Obviously, I came up empty twice. (This is why I don’t play roulette.) 

The second time I took Sienna to the vet to get bred, I asked the vet to pull some blood for me. With this sample, I put it on a blood card and mailed it to a company called Neogen. This company does genetic testing for cattle. You can have all types of different things checked. I only asked Neogen to run a milk trait panel. I was curious if Sienna gave A2 milk. 

What’s in your milk? Cow milk can contain either the A1 or A2 protein.

A1 and A2 are different types of proteins found in cow’s milk, and they affect the human body differently. There is some research to suggest that A2 milk is easier for humans to digest and more beneficially to the human body. The mass-produced milk from Holsteins found in most grocery stores has the A1 protein. However, some cows, such as Guernseys, are bred for the A2 trait.

A1 milk from Holsteins makes up the majority of milk found at grocery stores.

My genetic test on Sienna showed that she was A1/A2. If you are wondering what that means… So was I! When I looked at my email and it read “A1/A2: A2 Carrier.” I thought, “Huh?” So, I called my Neogen representative to have her decode this for me. She told me that if I bred Sienna to an A2/A2 bull, it was possible that a heifer born of this match would be A2/A2. Of course, this is only a 50 percent chance. (And we know how that’s worked out so far.) However, I’m not detered from trying to breed Sienna to a Guernsey bull in the future to try and get an A2-milk-producing daughter from her. But, I think I’ll see if I can’t find a bull she can visit, instead of using frozen sperm this time.

Anyway, my question for the Neogen rep remained: “I still want to know if my cow produces A1 or A2 milk.” The representative told me Sienna might produce either. Basically, it was still an unknown, and there wasn’t a way she knew of for me to test the milk. However, I could not sell my milk as A2, because the blood sample did not come back as A2/A2. Did you get all that? Thank you, Neogen, for giving me the answer I already had: I don’t know.

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