After anxiously awaiting our new arrival, it became increasingly apparent after several months that Buttercup had not been successfully bred. One indication was that every 21 days, like clockwork, she would bellow all day long, and the other hint I got that she was hormonal was that on these early mornings, when she would come to visit me at milking time, she would groan and attempt to come over the fence, up close and personal. We decided that it was time to call Scott. I don't know what Scott's formal title is; we just call him, "The A.I. Guy," and actually, thinking back, the story was that I called Jim Beauchamp a few days before Buttercup was due to come into estrus to see if his son, Jamie, would artificially inseminate her, but he was unavailable to be there the day she cycled, so Jim gave me Scott's number.
Scott Yantz works on a nearby Black Angus Cattle Ranch and has alot of experience and training in this field and we were thrilled that he was able to come out that evening to do the job. And what a job it was!
For one thing, we had never introduced Buttercup to the homemade holding chute - silly us - so it took quite a bit of encouraging, pushing, pulling (have you ever pushed or pulled an 800 pound reluctant bovine before? not so easy!) bribery and time to coax her into place,
but once secure, the procedure was not lengthy nor complicated:
The tubes of semen, more like micro straws, are carried in a large, insulated thermos of liquid nitrogen called a cryochamber.
They contain less than a gram of semen each from various, desirable types of cattle such as Hereford, Angus (black), Charolais, large dairy breeds - Holstein, Guernsey and, of course, like Buttercup, Jersey. There are approx 50-150 specimens in the thermos.
The insemination procedure is particular but not difficult. The specimen has to be slowly warmed from 0 to 95 degrees to not damage the product. Then the A.I. guy, Scott, darns the arm length glove and does a palpation.
He checks to determine the season of the cow, the location of the ovaries, and the position of the fallopian tubes. Then he places the foot long insemination rod with the specimen tube at the end into the cow and gently directs it through the cervix and with a gentle push like a hypodermic syringe, inserts the specimen into the uterine body, guiding and directing with his arm inside the cow. Next he removes the insertion rod from the reproductive tract and his arm from the rectum, and a gentle massaging pinch in the right spot causes the cow's muscles to pucker and retain the semen.
Experience and observation told Scott that each time this occurred there was a good chance for success. Everything went well.
Our first A.I. attempt occurred in January and by March we knew it was unproductive, so Scott returned soon after and repeated the procedure. He was very optimistic the second time around.
It has now been almost 8 months since her insemination and she has shown almost no indication of having regular estrus cycles. I said almost. Once or twice I've been a little concerned, but perhaps she was reacting to another animal's heat cycle, specifically Lucy. Buttercup and Lucy are great friends as you can see in this story HERE.
Our Jersey cow semen was procured form a bull named Chilli P. and Butter's due date is December 24th - Christmas Eve. If she has a heifer calf (a female cow that's never been bred) we will name her Butter Pea. If it's a bull he'll be called Chili Cup. I'm getting a little nervous though because she doesn't always look pregnant. Some days she does but I question if it's because she's gorged on Perennial Peanut Hay.
What do you think?
I've never seen a pregnant cow so I'm not sure what she should should look like right now. From these pictures she still has another 6 weeks to go. I guess I could call Scott Yantz and ask him to come check, but I'm afraid I'd be terribly disappointed if she's not pregnant, and right now I think I want to hold on to hope.
After all, Christmas miracles do happen!