Annie, Get Your Gun: Sexual Violation of Dairy Cows in 14 Steps

Artificial_insemination_of_a_dairy_cow

Artificial insemination of a dairy cow. Image shared from wikimedia under a Creative Commons license

Artificial insemination (A.I.) is the most common method of breeding dairy cows in the United States, accounting for nearly 80% of all dairy cow pregnancies. (1) Like all mammals, cows must give birth in order to produce milk. Around 10 months after calving, the quantity of milk that dairy cows produce decreases substantially. (2) In order to achieve profitable milk yields, dairy producers re-impregnate cows once a year after a short period of “drying off.” (Cows, like humans, carry their babies for nine months.) According to the USDA, “Reproduction practices on dairy operations are crucial to maintaining consistent milk production and creating replacement heifers…[C]ows should produce a healthy calf every 12 to 13 months (referred to as calving interval)…Decreasing the calving interval will result in more calves and greater milk production over a cow’s lifetime.” (3)

This constant cycle of impregnation creates a huge surplus of calves. Most female calves are used to replace the millions of still-young dairy cows slaughtered each year when their total milk yields decline, but male calves cannot produce milk and are sold to be slaughtered for veal or beef. In order for humans to take the milk that dairy cows produce for their babies, calves are removed from their mothers and raised in isolation on a diet of milk replacer; 97% of all dairy calves are permanently removed from their mothers within the first 24 hours of birth. (4)

The typical dairy cow endures this cycle of sexual violation and traumatic separation from her baby at least 3, and up to 7, times in her short life as a milk producer. The following excerpt from an article entitled “How to Artificially Inseminate Cows and Heifers” explains the invasive procedure by which dairy cows are forcibly impregnated year after year. (5)

This diagram illustrates the process of artificial insemination. One arm is inserted into the rectum of the animal to position the uterus. The other hand inserts an instrument containing the semen and injects into the uterus

This diagram illustrates the process of artificial insemination. One arm is inserted into the rectum of the animal to position the uterus. The other hand inserts an instrument containing the semen and injects into the uterus

Inseminating the Female Bovine

  1. Move the tail so it’s on top of your left forearm or tie it up so it will not interfere with the AI process. Raise the tail with one hand (preferably the right) and with the other (which should be gloved and lubricated), gently reach inside the cow to clean out any feces that may interfere with the process of feeling for and inserting the AI gun into the cow’s vagina.
  2. Clean the vulva with a clean paper towel or rag to remove excess manure and debris.
  3. Take the gun out of your jacket or overalls, unwrap it, then insert it at a 30 degree angle into the cow’s vulva. This is so that you avoid going into the urethral opening into the bladder.
  4. With your left hand in the rectum of the cow (which should have been there to begin with), feel with your finger tips through the wall of the rectum and vagina the location of the end of the AI gun until you reach the cervix.
  5. Grasp the cervix with the hand in the rectum of the cow (like you would hold a bar that is below your hand) and hold it steady while you thread the rod into and through the cow’s cervix.
  6. When the rod is all the way through the cervix, check the location with your index finger. The rod should be only 1/2 to 1/4 of an inch into the uterus.
  7. Slowly depress the plunger at the end where your right hand is so that 1/2 is deposited.
  8. Recheck the location of the semen to make sure you are in the cow’s uterus and not in any of her “blind spots” (see tips below), and deposit the other half of the straw’s contents.
  9. Slowly remove the AI gun, your hand and arm from inside the cow. Check for any blood, infection or semen “feedback” from inside the sheath.
  10. Recheck the straw to see if you used the right bull semen for the cow.
  11. Dispose the straw, glove, and towels in the proper place.
  12. Clean the AI gun if necessary.
  13. Record breeding information on any record keeping system you have on hand.
  14. Release the cow (if necessary, depending on the breeding set-up you have) and restrain the next one to be inseminated.

__________________________

Citations:

(1) Progressive Dairyman, A.I. Cover Sheaths Improved Fertility in Lactating Dairy Cows, October 2011

(2) Midwest Dairy, Dairy Facts: Dairy Cows

(3) USDA, Reproduction Practices on U.S. Dairy Operations, 2007; Feb. 2009.

(4) USDA, Colostrum Feeding and Management on U.S. Dairy Operations, 1991-2007; Feb. 2009

(5) excerpted from How To Artificially Inseminate Cows and Heifers, http://www.wikihow.com/Artificially-Inseminate-Cows-and-Heifers

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About Ashley Capps

Ashley Capps received an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first book of poems is Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields. The recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she works as a writer, editor and researcher specializing in farmed animal welfare and vegan advocacy. Ashley has written for numerous animal rights organizations, and in addition to her ongoing work for Free from Harm, she is a writer and researcher at A Well-Fed World. For more information on her poetry or advocacy writing, please visit her website. She also runs the vegan facebook page Make Compassion Consistent.

21 comments

  1. Pingback: Buying Dairy Products from the United States Funds Sexual Assault | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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  3. As a fifth generation dairy farmer and woman I feel compelled to say, Ashley, stop smoking crack. No really stop, it’s hurting your health. Please do us all a favor and go live on a dairy farm for a year, no wait why don’t you try five. Seek with all of your compassion to understand the dairy farmer(s), their families, their perspectives, their heritage, their integrity, and their “caring” for land and animals. Wrestle with something here, seriously I challenge you to try and “get” the dairy farmers and what they do. Literally I challenge you to put yourself in their shoes long enough so that the experience becomes part of your bones, because frankly I judge your opinions to be rather one sided. Truth be told, that does nothing to advance your cause. In fact it only hurts you and makes you look naive when you merely post a few negative judgements. Ashley write something deeply critical that comes from internalizing more than your personal convictions. I can see you care about animals, and I can appreciate that having been caring for them since I was old enough to walk, but if you cannot see that many dairy farmers who for generations have tied their lives to relationships with cows also care deeply then you will do no justice to your cause. Please, I urge you, seek first to understand, then seek to be understood.

    • Thank you for the advice. I likewise challenge you to seek with compassion to stop harming animals for profit and palate pleasure, and to stop exploiting the reproduction and mothering of other females. I’ve yet to hear how compassion can be reconciled with enslaving animals, forcing them into motherhood, then breaking up their families in order to steal their breast milk, for which we have absolutely no biological need, given that the only breast milk we’re meant to drink comes from human mothers. It’s an absurd and immoral practice based on theft and killing, and has nothing to do with compassion.

  4. Pingback: Why I Ditched Dairy | A Dozen Reasons + A Christmas Playlist! | The Broccoli Bulletin

  5. For kitten90 and any other doubters as to the suffering of these creatures…

    As a woman who has had three pregnancies and births, and suffered vaginal and rectal damage during the process, I have had many examinations, both vaginally and rectally, by hand or instrument, as well as surgery… So, let’s put (what I imagine to be) a victim’s perspective on this:

    Inseminating the Female Bovine

    “…gently reach inside the cow to clean out any feces that may interfere with the process of feeling for and inserting the AI gun into the cow’s vagina.”

    This is a disgusting sensation, believe me. A cow, just because they cannot speak, wouldn’t enjoy this… As for “gently” – how gentle do you think gentle needs to be? How can one be sure every farmer is gentle, or gentle enough?

    “Clean the vulva with a clean paper towel or rag to remove excess manure and debris.”

    A paper towel wouldn’t be good enough in a doctor’s office. Why? Infection can happen, and could lead to severe illness; fever, vaginal/uterine pain, the development of body-wide pain due to widespread infection. How would a cow communicate this?

    “Take the gun out of your jacket or overalls, unwrap it, then insert it at a 30 degree angle into the cow’s vulva. This is so that you avoid going into the urethral opening into the bladder.”

    A catheter into the urethra is painful and uncomfortable, imagine an accidental insertion of this kind of apparatus.

    “With your left hand in the rectum of the cow (which should have been there to begin with), feel with your finger tips through the wall of the rectum and vagina the location of the end of the AI gun until you reach the cervix.”

    Pushing the flesh of the rectovaginal wall against the tip of the “gun” would be painful and could lead to tears in the vagina. Any infection or bacteria present now has an opportunity to be introduced to the bloodstream.

    “Grasp the cervix with the hand in the rectum of the cow (like you would hold a bar that is below your hand) and hold it steady while you thread the rod into and through the cow’s cervix.”

    Any woman who has had a cervical smear would know that even a gentle smear is very uncomfortable, let alone someone grabbing at that part of the body. Ouch.

    “When the rod is all the way through the cervix, check the location with your index finger. The rod should be only 1/2 to 1/4 of an inch into the uterus.”

    Ouch even more. Sounds along the same kind of pain level as the “stretch and sweep” I had that tore my cervix when midwives were trying to get me into labour.

    “Slowly depress the plunger at the end where your right hand is so that 1/2 is deposited.
    Recheck the location of the semen to make sure you are in the cow’s uterus and not in any of her “blind spots” (see tips below), and deposit the other half of the straw’s contents.”

    Ouch ouch and ouch again.

    …now, moving on further in the “tutorial”…

    “Clean the AI gun if necessary.”

    If necessary? IF NECESSARY? That’s disgusting.

    These beautiful females are abused in no uncertain terms, and then when you add the sheer cruelty of tearing mother and calf away from each other, causing them great grief (because they DO love each other and bond, whether you like to admit it or not), and slaying the calves, so that WE can have their milk to put in our tea, or make cheese out of, I have to wonder why, once you know all this, anyone would argue any aspect of this…

    I am ashamed I used to be one of the people who bought these products, but as soon as I was enlightened as to how they were made (because I was ridiculously naive), and am proud to say that I dutifully stopped partaking in the use of them. No animal’s suffering is worth my selfish desires. Calcium comes from so many other places, there is no need for anyone to continue to participate in or argue for these atrocities.

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  7. Kitten90, definition of ‘humane”: marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals (Mariam-Webster Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humane?show=0&t=1373736789). Exploiting animals for profit is not humane. Based on your logic, then animals in their natural habitat should also be protected because male bulls are dangerous? How did nature figure this out without us? The ancestors of these animals have existed for millions of years just fine without any human interference. The domesticated version of these animals have been selectively bred to be so large, the bulls become dangerous to the females. A problem we created. And instead you blame the victim and not the perpetrator.

  8. kitten90,

    you are not looking at reality from the perspective of the victims. how can forcibly raping an enslaved individual so that they produce milk for their baby, stealing the milk from the baby and it was meant for, stealing the bay from the mother and then sentencing the baby to either simlar enslavement or immediate death (depending on the sex of the baby) be remotely considered humane? all this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the obscene abomination and unfathomable torture and abuse known as the dairy industry and does not take into account many more atrocites forced upon millions of peaceful, helpless indivduals, all in the name of greed and profit.

    “That innocent-looking and effective marketing tool, the dairy industry’s milk mustache, is thus actually a mask that hides the most sickening and inhumane industry practically imaginable. These docile vegetarian mothers and their unfortunate children are dominated from birth to death, unnaturally fattened on animal flesh so humans can fatten themselves on dairy products and cow flesh. One would almost hope that for their enormous sacrifice, the dairy cows would at least be supplying humans with something beneficial. And yet the deeper justice is inescapable: by killing them, we kill ourselves; by enslaving them, we enslave ourselves; by sickening them, we sicken ourselves.” – Excerpted from The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle

    http://www.nonhumanslavery.com/behind-the-milk-moustache

    • Have you ever been on a dairy farm? Have you ever seen first hand what goes on there? Or do you just sit behind a screen and read of the atrocities? How can you tell me they’re being “tortured”, when if you actually see cows at a farm they are relaxed and content?

      • Kitten90, We run an animal sanctuary and have a nationwide network of sanctuaries where unwanted, abused, tortured, mistreated calves and cows, chickens and turkey, goats, sheep and pigs, have been given a second chance at life. We don’t view these animals as commodities. We view and treat them as individuals. We don’t use them for profit. We offer them a loving and safe place to live out the rest of their lives without any expectations placed on them.

      • You’re welcome to browse our site where you’ll find numerous, first hand accounts of people visiting farms and slaughterhouses and documenting what they saw. If you’re looking for happy meat and dairy stories, you’re probably on the wrong site, Kitten90.

  9. Pingback: Deconstructing the Dairy Is Natural Myth in 14 Steps

  10. “I am ashamed of the race of beings to which I belong. It is so cruel and bigoted, so hypocritical, so soulless and insane. I would rather be an insect … a bee or a butterfly … and float in dim dreams among the wild-flowers of summer than be a man and feel the horrible and ghastly wrongs and sufferings of this wretched world.” -Professor J. Howard Moore

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  13. I totally agree. The word ‘humane’ and the meaning to me is a bit of an oxymoron (not that it strictly can me but you get the idea) in the fact that to be human seems to mean to torture, use and murder animals at our whim (before anyone says it, other animals use each other but we are far removed from living a natural existence, and they are not, in my opinion). It’s very sad and I dream of a world where we are extinct …. and for a compassionate person, such as myself, who believes in spreading love and kindness, to want extinction of a species is a sad thing indeed.

  14. Pingback: The Spiked Nose Ring: A Symbol for All Dairy Cruelty

  15. “The dead animal truck is less costly and so I asked her how most bobby calves are killed and she said, in her opinion, a big hammer to the head is the most humane way, as soon as they are born. ”

    what a vile and depraved species we are. can anyone imagine how bashing the head of an infant (or any age sentient being for that matter) can in any way be considered humane (which by the way is defined as “characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion”)? our greed, selfishness and disconnectedness has combined to make a lack of awareness of epic proportions. as William Ralph Inge said, to non-human animals we are the Devil.

  16. The technology exists now to ensure that the calves are female (from what I know of nature I imagine it would not be 100% effective but almost) which means that (in theory) less calves are killed due to less males being born. I asked a friend who is an AI technician (here in New Zealand) and she said it is costly so most farmers here only use it to impregnate their ‘best’ stock and use the conventional method of AI for the others, leaving it up to chance. There are two trucks that visit the farms, the dead animal truck and the live animal truck, taking away ‘surplus’ bobby calves depending on their state of life at the time. The dead animal truck is less costly and so I asked her how most bobby calves are killed and she said, in her opinion, a big hammer to the head is the most humane way, as soon as they are born. She also mentioned that shooting is less effective as one would think and bludgeoning with any other object is also less humane (in her opinion). She did, however, tell me that more adult cows are killed than the general public are aware off. Farmers under stress and taking out anger on the animals was what she was talking about. I have witnessed the separation of mothers and calves and the babies are trucked to the slaughter house at 7 days old. I have been in dairy sheds and dislike seeing these animals that are treated as machines. I have aided Vets in checking cows to see if they are in calf and, back then, it was a hand (and arm) up the bum, but now it’s a metal pipe with a camera on the end, which, is less forgiving than a arm, and I worry that the insides of the cows will be damaged. I didn’t know that less productive animals are shipped to slaughter after one year of life. Just some info on the subject. That’s all.

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