I traveled to India for part of my Master’s research in June and July 2014. My FaceBook is sending me memories of that time. Today’s memory was of me practicing my AI technique in water buffalo. I learnt AI through a company called WestGen. If you're not in the field of veterinary medicine, AI is artificial insemination. I learnt how to AI in multiparous Holstein dairy cattle - cattle that had birthed several calves already. This means that their uterus is larger, sometimes the cervix is like a cauliflower, and you are trying to find the entrance to the cervix, with great difficulty, by having your non-dominant hand rectally trying to hold the cauliflower and trying to manipulate your dominant hand holding the gun with the semen, a foot away from the entrance to the cervix, doing it all by feel. If you're not following me, it is really hard!
Holstein cattle are the black and white cows you may see in the pastures of B.C.'s Fraser Valley where I grew up. The average height of a Holstein cow at the shoulder is 1.5 meters. If you do not know me personally, I am 5'1 (1.55m). So, my shoulder level is well below the rump of a Holstein cow (take 1.55m minus the height of my head). Therefore, I need to stand on something to get my shoulder up so that it is level with the back end of the cow. If you do not have your shoulder level with the cervix, you can really injure your shoulder, because the cow could move side-to-side while you are in there and you can tear your rotator cuff doing this. Same with preg checking ladies, if you want to save your shoulders, get a milk crate and stand on that! Seriously, do not struggle to lift a uterus to retract it with your elbow flying around above your head. Work smarter, not harder!
Here is a photo of me with one of my water buffalo cows in India. I say I am built for working with Jersey cows, or water buffaloes! I am not standing on anything here!
In order for me to work with the water buffalo at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University I had to ensure that AI was in my protocol, because their goal is to get the buffalo cows pregnant, so that they can start lactating and producing milk for the dairy. The reproductive tracts of these water buffaloes were smaller, MUCH easier for me to handle, plus I was level with them. The only animal that I couldn't AI, and had to let the professionals get in there was a nulliparous young heifer, whose cervix entrance was so small that I couldn't thread the AI gun through. I am happy to report that I had an average of 60% pregnancy rate over my treatment groups.
I call it a success, despite the lack of statistically difference between my two treatment groups, I had a decent pregnancy rate for my first AI protocol. For more information on my Master's Research - check out my first publication.