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.