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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

GENEX Beef Goes to Denver

It’s one-mile-high, there’s a hill and a yard.

Any guesses?

Some refer to it as the Super Bowl of livestock shows. 

Now do you know?

You guessed it – the National Western Stock Show and GENEX was there!
For over 100 years, the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver, Colorado, has been the premier livestock, rodeo and horse show in the nation. While you’re at the NWSS you can see everything from a cattle show to a rodeo to stock dog trials, purchase ANY kind of livestock equipment and attend a livestock auction every day of the event! 
This, my friends, is where we introduce our Beef Genetic Management Guide at the GENEX tent in the yards. I know, you may have viewed it online in early January, but here is where you can pick up the first printed copy. As you flip through it you can smell the newness of the pages. Or is that the smell of the soggy shavings you're standing on? Not sure. You can study each page and make hand-written notes along the way, noting which sires you’ll need to consider this year. You’ll take note of the new, exciting young sire additions as well as the proven, maternally-oriented, balanced-EPD sires GENEX is known for.  
Whether as spectators or exhibitors, many families have been attending the NWSS event for generations. It’s a tradition. And it’s a tradition for the GENEX family.

If you stopped by the GENEX tent this year, I sure hope you had your picture taken with 1AN01238 RESOURCE. This life-sized bull was the talk of the tent! Congratulations to Dave & Darcy Johnson, Cambridge, Nebraska, and Will Wrich, Crawford, Colorado, who each won 25 units of RESOURCE semen for participating in our RESOURCE selfie contest by posting their photo and tagging #GENEXBeef.

Another exciting contest was the GENEX sires hidden in the yards each day. Our Facebook followers anxiously awaited each morning for the picture clues, and then were on the hunt! Who would be the first one to return the cut-out to the tent? It was a race each day. By the way, have you liked our GENEX Beef Facebook page yet? Head on over there to stay up-to-date on the latest GENEX Beef information.

NWSS GENEX Highlights

  •    The high selling heifer in the Angus Foundation sale was sired by       1AN01337 INNOVATION
  •   Check out the recap of our contests

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our tent. If you’ve never been to the NWSS, it’s definitely something to put on your bucket list! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Top 10 A.I. Technique Mistakes

I was recently reading an article in Progressive Dairyman which reported the cost for days open in a dairy animal to be between $3 and $5. Many factors come into play with determining if an animal becomes pregnant or not, and several of them are beyond our control as dairy producers. However, one of the variables we can control is our A.I. technique. I asked Eric Maynard, GENEX Dairy Education Instructor, to give me the top ten A.I. technique and semen handling mistakes people make.

1)  Incorrect or Poor Semen Placement. Several years ago, researchers at the Pennsylvania State University developed radiography techniques to clearly evaluate insemination accuracy. These techniques overcome some of the limitations of the earlier dye techniques used to evaluate placement. The study was reported in which 20 professional technicians and 20 owner-inseminators were evaluated using the radiography technique. Each person inseminated a total of 20 reproductive tracts. Radiographs were taken to access inseminating gun placement. The data showed that only 39 percent of the gun tip placements were in the uterine body. A total of 25 percent of the gun tip placements were in the cervix. Twenty-three percent were in the right uterine horn, and 13 percent were in the left uterine horn. Sixty percent of the semen was distributed either in the cervix or disproportionately in one uterine horn. Only 40 percent of the semen was located in the uterine body or equally distributed in both uterine horns.

2) Lack of reproductive knowledge. Failure to understand the anatomical and functional relationships among the various tissues and organs of the reproductive system may lead to consistent insemination errors.

3)  Animals are not in heat. Ensure that the cow to be bred is truly in heat. Research studies indicate between 7 and 20 percent of the cattle inseminated are not in heat.

4)  Careless handling of A.I. gun. Once the insemination device is assembled, it must be protected from contamination and cold shock temperatures.

5)  Improper straw handling. Shake the straw after removing it from the tank to eliminate any drops of nitrogen at the end of the cotton plug. This will prevent the plug bursting off when it is put in the water bath. If you have a large group of animals to inseminate, use semen more promptly by having one person thawing and loading while another breeds the animals.                                                        

6)  Contamination. The vulva region must be thoroughly wiped clean with a paper towel. This is important in helping prevent the interior of the reproductive tract from becoming contaminated and possibly infected. A folded paper towel can be inserted into the lower portion of the vulva. The insemination rod can then be placed between the folds of the towel and inserted into the vagina without contacting the lips of the vulva.

7)  Poor A.I. gun angle. To avoid the possibility of entering the urethral opening on the floor of the vagina, the insemination rod should be inserted into the vulva upward at a 30 ̊ to 40 ̊ angle.

8)  Incorrect hand placement. During the process of semen deposition, take care that the fingers of the palpating hand are not inadvertently blocking a uterine horn or misdirecting the flow of semen in some manner.

9)  Incomplete semen deposition. Be careful not to pull the insemination rod back through the cervix while the semen is being expelled.

10) Animal movement during insemination. If the cow has moved during semen deposition or you think the rod has moved, stop the semen deposition and correctly reposition the rod tip before continuing semen deposition.

If you would prefer a more comprehensive evaluation of your A.I. technique, talk to your GENEX representative about the A.I. AccuCheck℠ program