Students get hands-on artificial insemination training in New Raymer, Colo.
NEW RAYMER, Colo. — As four cows stood in individual pens in the old agriculture building behind Prairie School, all but one stood patiently as five students practiced artificial insemination on April 24.
After going through the textbook earlier this semester, the students were on their third day actually putting the skills, techniques and definitions to work.
“This is a textbook cervix,” Hannah Kinnison, 16, laughed after helping Ashley Scott, who was struggling to locate it.
Wearing pink shoulder-length gloves, Kinnison said it was only about wrist deep. Half of her forearm was gone from sight.
Teaching artificial insemination of livestock isn’t uncommon in FFA programs, which teach high school students about agriculture. But it’s not always easy to find livestock for students to apply what they learn on school property.
A community member brought the cows to the school in mid-April, and they will be moved to the school’s pasture for the summer.
The kids don’t actually inseminate the cows. Teacher Jennifer Evans said the school could occasionally get sperm donated or at a highly discounted rate, but it’s too expensive to let the kids use it.
Artificial insemination is a common practice in breeding cattle for a number of reasons. The mating process can be hard and cause injury to a heifer — a female that hasn’t given birth — and it also allows ranchers to find a good genetic makeup for cattle.
“It’s the No. 1 factor in beef,” Evans said.
She’s in her first year teaching at Prairie, but she took a class during college to learn AI. She said her class was about $500-$600, and that was on the low end. But it’s “such a practical skill” that she found a real passion for learning more and teaching the subject. Even as the teacher, she said, she sometimes struggles to find the correct location on the cervix to place the medal rods the students use to practice. But that shows the kid there’s always room for change and each cow will be a little bit different.
There were five kids in the class. Andrew Littlefield, a sophomore, took the class last year, too. He lives on a ranch and said after taking the class last year, he artificially inseminated 10 cows on his own, and this year he’s able to learn more about embryo transfer.
“I love it,” he said. ❖
—Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at email@example.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.