Are there bulls on dairy farms?
Good question. The short answer is, we don’t have any bulls on our farm. Some dairy farms have bulls, but we choose not to. They are dangerous, expensive to feed and also don’t allow for diversity in genetics.
So if there are no bulls how do you have baby calves?
On our farm, we utilize artificial insemination technology to breed our cattle. This means we fertilize our female cattle with semen straws. The straws are kept in a cryogenic tank. Tim is trained in doing this properly, and it doesn’t hurt our cows.
There are several different genetics companies that we buy semen from. Several times a year a sales representative will drop off a catalog for us to browse through.
This cutie was born on Father’s Day.
Her dad (Sire) is 54BS496 Groves-Sun Thor ET. This guy here:
There is a lot of information packed into the Sire’s information page. As dairy farmers we need to decide which genetic qualities we want in our herd. We also need to make sure we don’t inbreed. Usually we are trying to correct for undesirable traits. For example if the cow has bad feet and legs, we might breed her to a bull with a better foot and leg structure. The hope is that the genetics would improve in the calf. The goal is that each generation of calves is better than their mothers.
On our farm we want cattle that can walk long distances, produce milk while eating mostly grasses, and will live long healthy lives. We don’t necessary want the biggest or “prettiest” cow. Our cows also need to have the calves on their own (without help). That is why calving ease is an important trait for us. Calving ease is the ability for the cow to have the calf on her own. Usually that means the calves aren’t ginormous, but more reasonable sized. Since our cows may calve on pasture, away from our view, this is very important.
Cattle breeding can get pretty complicated, but Tim has a system worked out. No one else messes with it.
How often does a dairy cow have a baby?
On our farm, our dairy cows will have a baby calf once a year. Cows have a gestation period of nine months just like humans. Before we breed a cow, we make sure she is healthy. Sometimes the dairy industry gets negative slack for always having their cows breed. If a cow was out in the wild, the bull would be more than happy to keep her breed and not consider her health needs. We try to follow natural life cycles, but also make sure our cows are healthy enough to carry a calf.
To some artificial insemination might seem crude, but until they invent a dairy cow dating service, it is the best option we have. 🙂
I always wonder what Tim’s Sire profile would look like if he was a bull. I do know for sure that after three c-sections, his calving ease would not be too favorable. 😉