Some Things I Didn’t Know About Dairy Farming

My pregnant friend Lesley sent me this article from last Saturday’s Globe and Mail. It’s all about the big and messy business of bovine sperm harvesting. Things I learned from the article:

  • They actually use a steer or castrated bull as a kind of fluffer. Or stand-in. I can’t quite hit on the right metaphor for this: “‘Their role in life is to stand there and be mounted,” Mr. Carscadden said. ‘I don’t know if that’s better or worse than the alternative, which is to go to the food industry.'”
  • One shot by the ‘undisputed big boy’ of Canadian bulls, Godwyn, is worth CAN $250,000. That’s good for 2500 doses, or $100 per potential calf.
  • Godwyn has to suffer a lot before he gets off:

The bull mounts the steer three times, but is interrupted by the collection team on the first two to induce a big yield on the third. “On the first one, they’ll literally grab his penis and not allow him to ejaculate or penetrate,” he said. “On the second one, they spray the penis with disinfectant.”

And, on the third mount, the collector reaches in with an “AV”, or artificial vagina, just in time for the moment of glory.

Who has the worst job, the castrated bull or the sperm collector? A tough call.

I was reminded of a story an Irish friend told me about horse breeding. We went ‘down the country’ to observe the goings-on one day and learned the breeders used a female donkey as a fluffer before the actual extraction.

Speaking of horses and mounts, longtime readers may recall an old entry about the Equimount.


  1. I read that article in the print edition, while flying home from Toronto, and had to laugh out loud several times. Because it’s hilarious, but also because it’s totally insane, the stuff that goes on behind the scenes while we all happily consume our dairy products. Whoever stops to think about the multi-million dollar sperm industry?

    This article, combined with my trip to a farm in Vermont, where I milked a cow myself and then reflected on the contrast between that, and the way that cows are usually milked (several times a day on machines)… well, I’m seriously re-examining my relationship to dairy products, let’s just say.

  2. Eric was disappointed that you didn’t mention anything about the gold standard sperm that made your “pregnant friend Lesley” pregnant. He figures he has Goldwyn beat.

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