Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
The Timed AI Experiment.
Baby Jim has always been a little bit progressive minded. He never has been what you would call a pioneer but when something new comes along and it shows the promise of some improvement in some aspect of life, Baby Jim is usually ready to at least consider it. You would expect somebody who looks this much like an alien to embrace technology.
Take for example breeding cows. Baby Jim has been breeding cows by artificial insemination since the early 70’s. Now that does not make him a pioneer, but Baby Jim did learn the trade from a few of the industry pioneers. Baby Jim realized pretty quick that if he could master the technology he could extend his bull buying power immensely and afford a much better bull if he only bought the part he actually needed to get his cows bred. So he set out to learn to AI breed cows and he furthered his trip down the road to ruination.
Now our hero has been AI breeding cows for what is going on to thirty years. Over that time he has been involved in a lot of situations. Some were very good. Some were very bad. Some were dangerous and on the edge of deadly. Some were enjoyable. Some were lamentable. Some were highly successful. Others were dismal failures. Every now and then a situation comes along that is a combination of the above and ends up hilarious. This is the story of one of those times.
Baby Jim was involved in the annual fall breeding of a herd of cows. For those of you who have lived normal lives, a little background is in order. Back in the day, breeding cows meant five or six weeks of living with the cows. The reason for this is that cows, like most animals have a reproductive cycle that involves Estrous, or what is commonly called heat. This is mother nature’s way of birth control and another instance where the female controls everything in life. Basically the estrous period is when the animal is fertile and the only time she will have anything to do with the male.
To have a successful AI breeding season, the first step is to be able to breed the female when she is fertile. To do this you must observe the animals often, and well, to determine which animals are fertile, or in heat. Since the bovine animal has roughly a 21 day estrous cycle it normally takes a period of a minimum of three weeks to go through a bunch of cows. Additional observation and cattle working time before and after make AI breeding a major investment in time.
For about twenty years, science has been working on a way to get the animals to cooperate and be fertile in groups so that labor could be maximized or ultimately so that cows could be bred by appointment. Well that time has pretty well arrived. Over the last couple of years technology has evolved to make appointment breeding a reality.
Baby Jim had an appointment to breed a small group of cows. Now the down side is, once the scheduling is done and the cows are prepared and the appointed day of fertility arrives, there is no delay or rescheduling without significant expense. And one thing is true of appointment breeding – – – once the appointment is made the timing is critical to the success – – – the appointment must be kept.
On the day of this appointment, Baby Jim awoke to a freezing rain. It was foul and the TV news folks were warning everyone to stay home and canceling schools and sending everybody scurrying for bread and milk, the staples of modern inclement weather survival. Baby Jim has often wondered how many perfectly good automobiles have been wrecked on icy roads in the quest for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.
But the appointment had been made weeks in advance and needed to be kept. Baby Jim knew the mornings work would be outside and dressed as best he could for the weather. The cows were easy enough coaxed into the pen for some feed. Baby Jim had set about the task at hand.
At this time, we should point out the conditions of the cow working pen. The pen was outside. Wooden fence with several pens and with a basic chute and headcatch. Of course there was twenty years accumulation of Bovine fecal products, which the cow hooves were churning into a six to eight inch deep soup with freezing rain and the melting snow and a thin glaze of ice on everything just for good measure.
But things were going along pretty well. Everybody and everything was wet and cold except the neighbor who had on an excellent set of high quality rain wear and was cheerfully loading the cows in the chute for Baby Jim to work his magic. Got down to the last couple of cows. Did I hear you say UH OH? You should have.
Baby Jim was recording the breeding of the most recent cow. He noticed that there was not a cow in the chute. He heard a commotion in the back of the pen and figured that he better go help with those last two cows. Baby Jim was starting to the fence to go over and help when he saw the neighbor gently herding the two recalcitrant cows toward the crowding alley. Baby Jim observed that everything appeared to be under control and stopped in order to not spook the cows. This provided him with a perfect vantage point for what happened next.
Now this neighbor has a pretty nice herd of cows. They are big and growthy and he feeds them well, and they were usually pretty quiet animals. But one of these fourteen hundred pound maidens saw no useful purpose to her going in that chute. The two cows walked up to the gate at the crowding alley. They looked in. They paused. There is an old saying that is sometimes particularly appropriate in the cow business. “He who hesitates, is lost.” It has been the experience of Baby Jim that in a tight situation, if you give a cow a chance to think, she is most likely to out-think you. Well this gal did just that. In about a heart-beat she faked right, stepped back, pirouetted 180 degrees with the grace of a ballerina and the power of a D9 dozer and headed for the other end of the pen at a pretty good clip.
Good neighbor thought he was ready. He had his cow driving stick and he reached out to try to deter her turn. But that moment of hesitation had given her the edge. He reached out in front of her with the stick, but she was determined and she was powered by four wheel drive while neighbor had his feet stuck in the soup. He had leaned just a bit to intercept her. He was just a tad off balance. That old girl went by neighbor like a tornado through a trailer park. Now she never did touch him, but she did put some pressure on the cow stick and he was off balance and his feet were not exactly stuck but a little gummed up. Over backward he went. Right into the deepest part of the soup. It wasn’t quite deep enough for him to go under. Baby Jim was clambering over fences as fast as a beat up old cow man could and he could see neighbors face and knew he wasn’t drowning, but he laid there stuck in the soup with both arms and both feet stuck in the air, numb from the shock of semi frozen cow soup rendering his rain suit useless, rushing in through every gap, crack and crevice and embracing most of his body in a cold wet stinky mess. An instant image, that is engraved indelibly in the mind of Baby Jim.
Surprisingly very few evil words were uttered. Baby Jim helped neighbor up and determined that he was okay. Then Baby Jim had to take his tongue firmly between has teeth and bite down hard to keep from falling over laughing. Neighbor is a good fellow but would not take kindly to be laughed at in such circumstances. The final two cows were then penned and attended to without further incident, while neighbor went off to see about how to get himself cleaned up.
Several days later, Baby Jim is still waiting for neighbor to pronounce that, “Next year, I think we will just go back to using the bull.”