A few weeks ago Anthony sent me a text with an incredibly disturbing video attached to it. I was out-of-town and it was the morning that Patsy and Loretta were artificially inseminated. He recorded it so I wouldn’t miss out. Needless to say, I could not get through the whole thing, but I’m glad that he was kind enough to include me. And don’t worry, I won’t be sharing that here with you.
When we bought Patsy and Loretta, our plan was to keep them and breed them. That’s why I named them – I knew that we would have them for as long as they lived, and that could end up being quite a long time. If they had heifers, we would keep them and grow our herd. If they had bull calves, then they would go across the street to Kevin’s farm and be raised for beef.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m still in contact with the man whom we bought our girls from. He sends emails of stories of his herd, his calves and his life on the farm. I send him what probably amounts to way too many emails with too many questions and he kindly answers them – usually in just a few hours. I talked to him about what we were planning on doing and asked his opinion and his experiences with AI.
Since we don’t have a bull, in order to get our girls pregnant we decided to first try artificial insemination. Our next door neighbor Dexter has a herd that is somewhat in the ballpark of 100 cows, 100 calves and 3 bulls. If our first attempt at AI wasn’t successful (it’s around a 60%-ish success rate), our neighbor generously offered to then let our girls be incorporated with his herd to get pregnant the natural way.
We elected to try artificial insemination. We went through some catalogs and websites to pick out the perfect male. Or actually the perfect bull’s sperm – a bull that had a high CED – calving ease direct number – which basically predicts the ease at which the calves will be born to a first-time bred heifer. Dexter gave us a brief description of what some of the numbers meant, other things we should be looking for, etc. Some of the descriptions went like this: “Known for his powerful females with great udders” “An excellent mating choice for larger framed cattle who need rib and dimension” “Whoa Nellie!!!—big time added pounds alert here!!!” I’m not even sharing the most hilarious descriptions that point out great scrotal power. I’m trying to ignore my inner Beavis & Butthead right now.
On July 1, our girls mixed in with Dexter’s herd. His herd came to our pasture for a few days and our girls blended right in. We were so excited for them – from the first time they saw the herd next door they were calling out to them and following them along the fence line. The greatest thing was whenever we looked for Patsy and Loretta amongst the huge herd, the two of them always stuck together and were never far from one another. It’s weird not having them here at our farm. It seems so different and quiet without them. I’m used to looking for them as soon as I wake up and making sure they are still in the pasture before it’s dark at night. Now we just get to visit them every few days next door. And I’m pretty sure they could take us or leave us at this point.
Back to the insemination. Anthony said that Patsy did great – she wasn’t phased, it was easy and she handled it like a champ. Loretta, on the other hand, was bucking most of the time. Cut to last week, when we met the vet out at our neighbor’s farm; he was there to check and see if they were pregnant. Loretta went first and of course, she wasn’t pregnant. Anthony said he knew it. Patsy went next and Anthony leaned around the side of the chute and gave me a thumbs up. She is pregnant.
Since Loretta wasn’t pregnant, we decided to go with plan B. The vet gave her an injection and started the “synchronization of estrus“. That would put her into heat in a few days and then they were back with Dexter’s herd. I asked him how long our girls will be with his herd and he said he likes to keep his girls with the bull for about 3 months. 3 MONTHS? I’m hoping we get to revisit this time frame, but I know my missing them doesn’t matter if we are trying to get Loretta pregnant.
They’ve been gone for what seems like forever, and now I’m not sure how much longer they will be gone. We can’t really visit them because they are in a pasture that’s somewhat far away. I hate it, but I know they’re happy to be out in the pasture again, with the herd, eating grass and laying around outside. And I’m glad they are together. Patsy would not do well here without her Loretta and vice versa.
I wish our girls were back at home, with us, where they belong. I wish we had our own bull. I wish they could have gotten pregnant the natural way. I don’t like having them injected with hormones to put them into heat. It just makes me a bit uncomfortable and seems weird and selfish just because we want them to have calves. But that is how we did it this year and we have learned and now we know what to do and not to do next year. And I’m grateful for everyone’s help and guidance this year – we couldn’t have done it without our neighbor’s patience and generosity. Keep your fingers crossed that Loretta gets knocked up. And if she doesn’t, of course it’s not the end of the world.