Are our dairy cows “forcibly artificially impregnated” each year?

Not for the last two years, no, we’ve gone au naturale. We will return to annual artificial inseminations but our experience of natural matings shows that’s really not out of the ordinary if you have the body of a cow.

In response to our changing weather patterns, I decided to start the cows calving on April 21 (also the date of our wedding anniversary but, honestly, no connection!) rather than our traditional mid-July. Now that winter is milder, an autumn calving means we’ll have more lush green grass just when the cows need it the most.

Moving calving in this direction is tricky. Cows have nine-month gestations and it’s at least three weeks after calving before they are ready to conceive again. For example, a cow that calves in August won’t conceive until September at the absolute earliest and her calf would be due in May or June.

It also requires a very keen eye to see who is in the window of fertility that lasts just hours and, often, we miss it.

For all of those reasons, I bought a host of pedigree bulls and introduced them to the cows in July. The bulls are on the job 24/7 and nobody is more expert at detecting the fluttering of long bovine lashes.

The result is that our conception rates have lifted and we have moved the herd’s calving date forward by a month each year.

In other words, left to their own devices with suitable Romeos, the cows don’t need to be “forcibly impregnated” (to borrow an alarmist vegan phrase) each year because it happens naturally. When we go back to annual artificial insemination, it will be with a clear conscience.

4 Comments

Filed under Animal Health and Welfare

4 responses to “Are our dairy cows “forcibly artificially impregnated” each year?

  1. how does that clear your conscience? the issue with forced impregnation is that you are impregnating an animal in order to force its body to labor and produce milk, and then you steal her milk and her baby. it’s not an issue of which device you are using to cause the pregnancy.

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    • Hi Torrence,
      Letting a bull roam with the cows is not “forced” impregnation yet the cows still become in calf – so the point I was trying to make is that annual pregnancies are something the cows are able to manage really well because they’re natural. I’m glad to hear that it’s not an issue for you either but it is something I have often heard from animal activists.

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  2. Sammy

    Why don’t you let the bulls impregnate them and let the cows have some fun?

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    • Good question, Sammy! We did for a few years but are back using straws of semen again.

      The reason is that using semen allows us to choose bulls that have proven traits to improve the health of our cows. Believe it or not, we can select a sire for everything from the length of his daughters’ teats right through to their susceptibility to mastitis infections. As you can imagine, this adds up to better lives for the cows as well as the ability of the farm to produce high quality milk.

      In the last couple of years, we have been able to select sires that will always have hornless calves, another boon for the wellbeing of our calves. We can’t buy bulls locally like this, so insemination is the way to go!

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