Friday, January 27, 2017

It's Quite a Production

Follow along on a recent trip our Audio Visual Coordinator, Todd Moede, took to our GENEX facility in Tiffin, Ohio. I think you will agree, collecting quality bull semen is quite a production.

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to the GENEX location at Tiffin, Ohio, to video their semen collection process with Dr. David Brown, GENEX AVP Veterinary Services and Education. I was curious and excited to see the old bull stud where much of our industry has its roots. I have been working for Cooperative Resources International for 28 years, had met Ken Wallin from the old Badger Breeders and I knew this was the spot where the National Association of Animal Breeders had met for the first time, long ago. I knew of Max Drake, the first Manager at Tiffin. Keith Heikes the current COO of GENEX was the Manager of NOBA (GENEX predecessor) in Tiffin, before he came to Shawano. I figured this was pretty hallowed ground here in Ohio, as far as our industry and our cooperative was concerned, if you know what I mean.

At the start, bulls were tied up around the arena and were allowed to interact with each other. Production Manager, Mike Landers, then had a group meeting where his entire crew got their assignments for the day, addressed any questions or problems that might have come up and made sure everyone got their morning cup of coffee and peanut butter granola bar. The way I look at it happy workers are good workers and Mike certainly did a great job with that.

My first day in the collection room did not start too well. It only took me about 10 minutes to be talked to by one of the guys. I had slipped into the collection area with my camera between two young sires that were tied close to the opening I went through. Al Wagner, Livestock and Grounds Superintendent, quickly got my attention and informed me of the difference between a safe tie off distance and an unsafe distance. I had apparently gone through the unsafe zone. I have videoed many bulls before, and I figure I'm still pretty quick for a 60 year old, but Al was right. A person might get away with that 1,000 times but the time you don't, might be quite painful. Point taken and received. 

As I videoed, things seemed to fall into a definite pattern. Mike kept track of sires and steers tied off around the arena. Al stayed close to the lab area and made up artificial vaginas (AVs) so they were ready when the guys needed them, and Ron Wise, Head Herdsman, and Kraig Lease, GENESIS Operations Transportation and Maintenance Assistant, were doing the collecting.

When bulls had a sufficient time in the arena they were worked with a steer. The bull would false mount and he would be diverted by the handler. Sometimes it would take one false mount and with others it might have taken three or four, every bull was different. When Mike nodded that the bull was ready, the handler would walk to the AV area, get the warm AV and the bulls tag off of the door, put on a new glove and go out and collect the bull. After the collection, Mike and the collector communicated the name and sire code of the bull and the collector checked the AV to be sure semen was in the collection vial. He then went to the AV area, removed and capped the collection vial while making sure things were clean, filled out the paper work and gave the collection to the lab. 

After working behind the camera for a while it began to dawn on me that I wasn't really watching four guys collecting semen, but instead, I was watching four guys working as one. It seemed to me that no one really ever needed to be told what to do, they just knew and did it. If a steer was relieving himself and missing the five-gallon pail meant to catch it, the closest guy would move the pail. When manure hit the ground, the closest guy to the shovel would pick it up and put it in the wheel barrow. When a steer needed to be cleaned, it was quickly noticed and got done. If Al was busy and an AV needed to be made Ron or Kraig would be right on it. No one was ever asked or told what to do, they just knew and out of mutual respect for each other, the jobs got done, and done well. Heck, by the second day even Doc Brown was shoveling in the arena without being asked!  I guess good stuff like that seems to rub off.

All the while they worked, the radio would be playing old classic tunes. The older guys liked the fact that the youngster, Kraig, never heard of a lot of the groups playing. At my age I was not bad at knowing who the groups were until the tune "A World Without Love" came on. Obviously British, I said it was Herman's Hermits, good guess I thought. I was later corrected ... that's Peter and Gordon. One of the guys looked it up on their phone, no fair.

All in all, the trip was great. I got to see the old barn where sire code 1H started. I got to admire the work of the collection, lab and barn crew and got a real sense that everyone involved in the process owned their small piece of it. I also got to see how four people can actually work as one. Oh yes, and I managed not to get hurt.

No comments:

Post a Comment