The heat of summer is rapidly approaching — and with it the toils of cows suffering heat stress and, consequently, poor reproduction.  So, what can you do to get cows pregnant?

First off, herd bulls are not the answer. Bulls suffer the same physical effects of heat that cows do.

Review your AI technique every three months to make sure that you are staying on track. Often, people take short-cuts to save time, but that can cause them to drift off course and not perform the job the way it was intended.  

Be sure that you have all of the items necessary for thawing semen and loading straws in a clean area close to the nitrogen tank. Check that the temperature of the water is starting at 95 degrees F. Monitor the temperature of the thaw bath so that it doesn’t drop below 92 degrees F while thawing semen. (Check the accuracy of your thermometer with a mercury thermometer every two months). 

Know the location of the semen inside the tank before opening it. This will avoid unnecessary searching, which could raise the temperature at the neck of the tank and lead to an increased amount of liquid nitrogen loss, which is necessary to keep the semen frozen. Although tanks have a six-month nitrogen capacity, check the nitrogen level monthly. Keep the cane (the metal casing that holds 5 straws of semen usually from the same bull down in the tank) below the frost line.

Use tweezers, not fingers, to remove the straws and quickly transfer the straws into the water bath. Do not let the straws touch one another, as this can lead to re-freezing and death of the semen. It’s a good idea not to thaw more than 10 straws at one time. Limit the number of straws thawed to how many you can get into cows within 15 minutes from the time you remove the first straw from the thaw bath. Thaw semen at 95 degrees F for a minimum for 45 seconds, and then warm the guns and sheaths while you are waiting — even in the summer. 

Remove the straw from the bath and dry it thoroughly with a paper towel. With the straw protected by a paper towel, cut the crimped end of the straw at a right angle.

As you load the straw into the gun, check sire-ID on the cane and write it in the AI book for record-keeping purposes.

BE CLEAN WHILE INSEMINATING. Use a paper towel to clean the cow’s vulva and gently insert the gun into the vulva. Thread the gun through the cervix by manipulating the cervix to capture the tip of the straw — NOT by whipping the tip to find the cervical opening. Deposit the semen at just the opposite end of the cervix into the body of the uterus (which is the inch space between the end of the cervix and the splitting of the uterus in the picture at right).  If the cow moves, then re-check the position and reposition if necessary.

By making the effort to refine your AI technique every three months, you can increase your conception rates and, therefore, your pregnancy rates through the summer and beyond.

The farm makes more money

The farm makes more money when its employees follow proper breeding techniques. When employees try to take short-cuts, problems can occur. Reproductive efficiency can suffer, and that can lead to less milk yield, fewer dairy replacement heifers produced and increased cull rate, says Paul Fricke, University of Wisconsin extension dairy-reproductive specialist.