Marco came over this week to teach Ashlee and me how to artificially inseminate dairy cows. I learned several things.
1. A cow’s rectum is a good place to warm your hand.
I was in the house when Marco arrived, so threw my big barn parka over the cashmere sweater I was wearing, and ran out to meet him. In order to find a cow’s cervix, you first insert your gloved arm into her rectum. I took off the puffy parka before putting on the long plastic glove (it seemed like the polite thing to do), so by the time it was my turn on the cow, I was shivering. Next thing I knew, I was up to my bicep in what felt like perfect-temperature bathwater. The rectum contracted, as rectums will, and squeezed my arm tightly. It was a lot like that gizmo they have at the spa that warms and squeezes your legs. Lovely.
2. The cervix can be elusive, but the rectum is accommodating.
Or at least Sis’s rectum was. She’s one of our older cows, a calm, sweet girl, and despite the fact that three people were taking turns thrusting their hands into her anus, she continued to calmly eat her hay. With Marco’s guidance, Ashlee and I started to get the hang of the geography inside of her. The rumen on the left side feels like a big, taut beach ball. Then you move straight down toward the pelvic floor, squishy tissue on both sides, until you encounter the tough, distinctly different cervix, which you grasp and cup in your hand. The body of the uterus itself feels like an empty rubber bag. Every cow is a little different, so we’re supposed to practice this week on the cows who are not yet bred. Marco says heifers are tricky, because their parts are very small.
3. Do not wear cashmere when learning to inseminate cows.
This one is self explanatory. On Tuesday, we’ll learn to load the AI gun with semen, thread it through the vulva and cervical os and into the body of the uterus. More on that next week.