As you drive around in the further areas from Bangkok, the more rural places, you not only catch constant glimpses of local culture in the form of Buddhist and Muslim Temples, daily markets and a foreign language plastered everywhere, but you get a little taste of what I'm not sure should be labeled as self sufficiency, rural poverty, or just the way people survive in the sticks.
As you navigate the small sois, main drags and even larger highways, you will see a handful of cows, grazing in the median, on the side of the road or in the ditches. Somewhere within the same half kilometer you most often see the owner of these cows with a small stick herding a stray back towards the main group. There are sometimes those who think the grass is greener on the other side (of the road). Those are usually the ones hanging out in the median. Luckily, I have yet to see on that had been hit by a car.
I see this all the time over in Ubon, and in fact, the brothers have about ten cows of their own. A hobby for now. The family has a good size piece of land out in the middle of nowhere close to Laos though, so the cows are fenced in and not "mowing" weeds along the freeway. I was at the farm once when they were trying to get a female into a corner to artificially inseminate her...as they have cows not for milk and not for meat, but to make more cows. I've come to learn that when the cows have calves, they sell any males to beef farms and keep all newborn females.
As all of the males are sold off, they have to get the baby-making stuff from elsewhere. But studding here is not necessarily, "bring the bull to this farm for the day and let him do his thing and then take him to his next appointment". The endless travel is not so comfortable for the bull and there end up being all kind of timing issues, hormone issues, and even simple things like does the female even want this bull (that she just met) hanging around her back door, if you know what I'm trying to tiptoe around.
No more tiptoeing...
As I understood, the boys purchase bull sperm from this one rancher we visited a month ago. It comes all bottled up. I always thought that "semen farmers" just jammed a long needle into the bull's testicles and syringed out the sperm. I got to asking and looking online and found some interesting stuff about how the process or obtaining the sperm goes...
The first common way of obtaining sperm from a bull is by using a device called an Artificial Vagina, or AV. This is exactly what it sounds like and the bull is allowed to mount a trained female (apparently trained in letting the male mount here but not penetrate) but his penis is diverted into the AV, which mechanically + heat + water + lubricant, stimulates it to ejaculation, at which point the semen is collected and preserved.Another method is digital manipulation. Yes, using your hands. Again, upon arousal the penis is inserted into a collection cone. I was interested to learn that digital manipulation is also used in pigs, dogs, turkeys and chickens. For bulls, the prostate and other important baby making anatomical bits and pieces are often massaged through the rectum for stimulation as well...The bull needs to be sedated for this one...Uh, really?
The last method that I found interesting, and a little "Abu Ghraib", was Electroejaculation. I'll not get too much into this one, as I'm sure (if you're still reading) that you produce the disturbing imagery in your own head! (As if the digital manipulation of a 2,000 pound bull wasn't disturbing) Here's a picture of a few different sized electroejaculators.So lets just go with the advantages of electroejaculation...Easily done in the field as all you need is the electric probe and power supply. It is useful in animals that are not healthy enough to mount a female. This method produces a larger amount of ejaculorate.
Negatives...low sperm count in ejaculorate. Animal must be under anesthesia...and uh, yeah, a negative for Mr. Bull, the electrode is inserted in the anus...and then, I guess...ZAP!! Happy time.
Sperm collection by electroejaculation is also often used in men (human men) with severe spinal cord injuries who desire to have children, but who cannot be brought to arousal or ejaculation by any other means.
Another interesting factoid is that this technique is also often used in ferrets and leopards...who knew!
Storage, handling, and eventual insertion into a female are also interesting, but stuff for another exciting future blog! Enjoy your lunch...and by all means, WASH YOUR HANDS!