I received a call last Friday morning from my friend Paul, who lives a mile north of us on Upland Colony, a Hutterite community. He invited me to come visit, as they were artificially inseminating (AI) 120 of their 500 mama cows using a new breeding box they built.
Excited, I grabbed my camera, pulled on my boots and met Paul for a tour of their cattle facilities. Upon arriving to the breeding site, I saw Angus cows being worked through a corral into a chute, where they received their breeding shots, and finally pushed into the breeding box.
They called it, “The Double Barrel,” because they could breed two cows at once. Basically, the breeding box is a dark box that is completely enclosed. Once inside, the cow walks into one of the two chutes, where a bar drops behind the cow. A cloth hangs down, just barely grazing her topline. This is to keep the cow from seeing what’s behind her. With the bar keeping her in place, and no head gate to fight, the cow stands quietly in the soothing darkness, while the AI technician is free to do his job.
Once the AI technician is finished, hydraulics release the cow. The front opens up, and the cow walks out -- a little dazed by the bright sunlight but otherwise unfazed by the experience.
Ray, the head cow boss, explained to me that the breeding box reduces stress on the cattle, resulting in higher conception rates. He estimated that the job of breeding 120 cows would take only a couple of hours, as the cows tend to move quickly through the setup. All the cows had been synchronized earlier using CIDRs. Once the breeding was finished, the pairs would be put back out to pasture.
They were kind enough to allow me to take pictures while they were working. You can check out the photo gallery of their breeding box system here.
I’m very impressed by the breeding box. In fact, we plan to implement this technology into our own breeding facility within a couple of years.
Do you AI your cows? If so, what kind of setup do you use? What have you found works best to increase conception rates?