Bringing Genetics to a Whole New Level Down on the Farm I was born and raised on a small family farm in Elfrida, most people have never heard of this place since it is so small. It is located in Southeastern Arizona in the rural Cochise County. I absolutely loved growing up there and would not have changed it for the world. After high school graduation, I enrolled at the University of Arizona as an animal science major and have enjoyed learning about this industry for the past four years. At the end of my sophomore year, I took a three day class and became a certified artificial insemination technician for cattle. That May, my mother and I packed up my car and I headed to Earlham, Iowa to start a summer internship at Radakovich Cattle Company. This company sells seedstock (breeding purposes rather than market) bulls to commercial cattle producers and all of their cattle are bred using artificial insemination. For some of you who do not know what this means according to the Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, artificial insemination is the implanting of live spermatozoa into the genital tract of the female. Artificial insemination is a common practice that is the single most important physiological technology ever devised for acceleration of genetic improvement. It is the most valuable management practice available to the cattle producer. It increases the genetic progress as well as improving reproductive efficiency in many situations. Radakovich Cattle Company uses this practice to do just that, they produce bulls for their consumers that are tailored to their cattle operation. They are very successful in their bull sales so I had a lot to be expected of me. I spent the entire summer with them and their ranch hands artificially inseminating their cattle. We would “heat detect” every morning and night to see what females were in estrus so we knew when we would need to breed. Following the am/pm rule we bred twice a day. If a cow was in standing heat in the morning she was bred in the evening and vice versa. When a cow is in standing heat she will stand to be mounted by another cow or bull. The breeding was done in a squeeze chute in the barn using frozen semen that was stored in liquid nitrogen. Artificial insemination has many crucial steps that must be followed: First raise the canister to where semen canes can be read, while still below frost line. Locate your desired cane and raise it above the frost line and hold it with your fingers. After that, remove semen with tweezers to prevent your skin from getting burned and replace the cane in the canister and lower into tank. Next it is important to shake the semen straw once to remove any drops of nitrogen from the plug. Immediately place the straw in thaw unit where the water temperature should be 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The minimum thaw times for .25 cc straws is 20 seconds and remove the straw from the thaw unit and dry it off with the clean paper towel. Be sure your gun is warm before loading it with semen. Cut the crimped end of straw with scissors and place straw in disposable sheath. Place sheath over the gun and be sure that plunger is pulled back. Next, prime the gun by pushing plunger to remove air make sure you replace the gun under clothing or into gun warmer. It is important to breed your bovine as soon as possible because semen will survive in the gun at body temperature for 15 minutes. Put a glove on and clean the female’s vulva with a paper towel and proceed to place lube on your hand. Make a fist and press down inside rectum to create separation of vulva. Insert your gun at 45 degree angle upward without touching lips of vulva. Keep the tip of the gun (the part that enters the uterus) free of all contamination. Make sure to gently guide gun through the cervix and maintain a firm steady grip. Be sure to move slowly and gently! All semen should be deposited just inside the uterine body, immediately after passing through the cervix and deposit slowly. Remove the gun from the vulva and dispose of the empty semen straw and dirty gloves. We bred over forty cows a day for almost a month and it was a great experience. Most of the days started at four am and we were done by eight pm. There was never a day that I didn`t return to the house covered in manure and a story to tell about a cow`s attitude that day. I still breed cattle in Arizona year round and I especially use it on my personal herd at home which has been very useful in improving the quality of my herd. It has been fun and a great experience and has really helped me stay connected to my family farm while I am away at school.