When I woke up this morning, defrosted bull semen was the last thing I thought I'd be pondering today. Going out on a limb here, but I'm willing to bet the same goes for you too.
However, here we are, at the threshold. So let's say you and I take a jaunty stroll through the magical world of bovine artificial insemination, shall we?
When it comes to coitus uninterruptus, save for those of the more oblivious and introverted persuasion, we humans are pretty quick at picking up on the kind of signals that lead to the bedroom. But when it comes to telling whether or not a cow is in heat, as to be expected, we're somewhat less fluent in that language of love.
Rather than get lost in translation, German dairy farmer, Joseph Wintjens, equips his cows with a sex sensor called Heatime. The small box attaches to the collar and measures the cow's temperature twice a day, then sends the data to a computer.
"Often the period between a cow displaying her heat symptoms and ovulating is actually quite small," professor Karl Schellander told DW. Schellander heads the department of animal husbandry at the University of Bonn.
Just like us, when a cow is feeling frisky, its temperature rises. When Wintjens sees this on his computer screen, he knows there's only one thing left to do: dim the lights, turn on some Lovage and defrost some bull semen. Okay, he probably doesn't dim the lights or turn on Lovage, but by golly he sure does get up close and personal with his herd.
Because I have dutifully taken the time to learn about bovine artificial insemination today, so are you. First thing farmer Wintjens does is lube up his arm, which is wrapped in a plastic glove. Again, not too far removed from the precautionary measures that precede some of our own intimate moments.
If you ever catch yourself thinking, "Man, I hate my job," consider this: At least you don't have to stick your arm up a cow's butt. And I do mean arm, as in elbow-deep, because that's how you inseminate a cow. The farmer enters rectally to manipulate the cervix, while the other hand uses a long syringe to inseminate the uterus via the cow's vagina. Bet that unpaid overtime your boss just asked you to work doesn't sound so bad now, does it?
"Well, yes, of course, there are nicer things than digging around in excrement, but someone has to do it," Wintjens said.
Credit: Lillian Patz/Design Pics/Corbis