Making history…

by David

…is something of a habit at Thistle Hill.  We’re always trying new ideas…ways to improve the quality of our operation and the cows we produce.

In that pursuit we were particularly excited when Church was able to negotiate the purchase of a canister of scores of straws of semen from longtime Devon breeders Don and Heather Minto in Jamestown, Rhode Island.  Among the straws were collections from almost all the top Rotokawa bulls plus some of the legendary sires in Devon history.

Church planned the first major use from the cache to take place during his Christmas break from Cornell Veterinary school.  Because our vet’s clinic is close to Thistle Hill, Church decided not to freeze the embryos but rush them to our farm for implantation.

Thistle Hill Farm cow/calves grazing.

Three of our best cows…daughters of Cashtiller, Bribery and Buttercup…all outstanding English Devon…were  selected as donors and brought to the clinic for conditioning.  At the farm eleven top mama cows with a top reputation for mothering calves were brought into synchronization with the three back at the clinic.  The three at the clinic have been pregnant for eight days…the 11 recipient cows each have the uterus of a cow impressed exactly at the same time eight days ago.

First in the chute TDA 24…a daughter of Essington Park Buttercup.

First in the chute TDA 24…a daughter of Essington Park Buttercup.  Actually, thanks to modern technology we are breeding a bull long gone to a cow that is out of a herd that no longer exists.

Our longtime vet, Dr Tom Massie, heads the transplant team assisted by technician Jane Naramore and our Church  Humphreys.

Our longtime vet, Dr Tom Massie, heads the transplant team assisted by technician Jane Naramore and our Church  Humphreys.  Flushing the eggs out of the cow is delicate but straightforward…a solution is injected in the uterus and the eggs are gently dislodged and funneled into a flask.  That procedure takes about 30 minutes.

Dr. Massie hurries the flask to his lab and under a microscope searches out the 8-day old embryos among the liquid and chaff.

Dr. Massie hurries the flask to his lab and under a microscope searches out the 8-day old embryos among the liquid and chaff.  The first question is quickly answered…we have live embryos!  Yes, we cheered!

Five embryos are pretty easily spotted and then seven.  There are more but it’s not immediately apparent yet how viable all the eggs are.

Five embryos are pretty easily spotted and then seven.  There are more but it’s not immediately apparent yet how viable all the eggs are.

However the clock is running…only a short window exists to complete the operation and there are two more cows to go.  Jane stays in the lab to complete the search. 

Meanwhile, Church has moved the second cow into the chute and readied the instruments and chemicals for the next flush. 

This second cow proves as docile as the first and Dr Massie raises the possibility we’ll finish all three flushes before the trip to the farm and the implanting.

This second cow proves as docile as the first and Dr Massie raises the possibility we’ll finish all three flushes before the trip to the farm and the implanting.  Until now we had expected to flush two, implant those and the return for the third.

And cows two and three cooperate beautifully…as does the lab work.

This second cow proves as docile as the first and Dr Massie raises the possibility we’ll finish all three flushes before the trip to the farm and the implanting.

Meanwhile at Thistle Hill Curt has moved 11 mothers-to-be into the pen awaiting the stork.

Church has made a decision: we’ll use 10 of the embryos…6 for Potheridge President and 4 for Champson Defender.  The remaining embryos will stay at the clinic and be frozen for use later.

Of course as always with artificial insemination there are no guarantees…it will be about a month before a pregnancy check determines just how successful this day has been.

An exciting and exhausting day…but rewarding for this old wrangler watching the next generations of Thistle Hill Devon!

David

Church, Carolyn and David