How we visited the only one bull station of Iceland.
While we were relaxing in a hot tube of Borgannes a man started talking to us. He noticed our tandem near the swimming pool entrance and asked if it was ours. This way we engaged a conversation and he told us that he worked in the only one station of cows’ reproduction of Iceland. We couldn’t miss a thing like that. As our jobs have strictly nothing to do with this domain, we had no slightest idea about the organization of any agricultural unit of any country in the world, so we asked our new acquaintance to make us a short guided tour of his bull station. Was it interesting? Not only, it was, how would I say? Mind-changing!
The bull station is situated not far from Borgannes. Svenbjörn told us that we would HEAR where it is rather than see. He was right, it sounded as if there were 10 elephants locked in this building.
So all 75 fathers of all Icelandic cows live here. There are not so many of them since the locals prefer sheep farming, and the quantity of cows corresponds exactly to the needs of Iceland which means that neither milk nor meat are exported.
You can’t even imagine how strict the criteria of bulls’ selections are, so becoming a patriarch is not a very common destiny. If the bull has horns – he goes directly to the slaughterhouse, if he doesn’t want to mate – the same thing. And even those who were selected don’t remain more than 2 years on their position.
Every bull has a number as well as a proper name in order to save the tradition, according to our guide. So once in a while certain bull is invited to a room where his “partner” is waiting. Since the bulls have no access to real cows, they can get excited even seeing this, how to say, imitation. However, sometimes it can be even worse than that – if there is a bull who is not virile enough and shows no desire to mate, he can be used as a passion object instead.
Just when the bull is ready to ejaculate, the employee puts an imitation of cow’s vagina (lubricated and warmed up!) and collects the semen.
Then the semen is submitted to various analysis.
And gets freezed.
When a cow is ready to mate, the owner calls to a special service that arrives immediately with the suitable semen, which is firstly thoroughly selected according to its DNA compatibility, properties etc. The record of this data has been kept for more than 10 years ! But it’s not as simple as that. All this “industry” is completely digitalized, and makes possible to track the huge part of any cow’s genealogy tree. Actually, a big quantity of semen is taken from each bull and preserved for a long time-period in order to be able to make analysis in case if it is needed. But what is even more surprising, that each bull is “tested” so to say. After fecundation, the new-born calf is watched and its characteristics get registered and compared. Whether the calf is healthy, strong, produces a lot of milk when its time comes, or on the contrary – everything is recorded. This allows to select the best bulls’ semen and, therefore, to get the best calves with the best productivity. Reminds a bit of Nazi experiments, doesn’t it? Anyway, over the last years with this approach, the milk production has increased for 30%, which is more than significant.
So that is a short resume of Icelandic cows’ reproduction. We assume it happens this way, well, everywhere, but for us this discovery will be associated forever with Iceland. :)
P.S. Dear Svenbjörn, I hope we memorized your name correctly, if you ever happen to read this line, let us know if we do. Thanks a lot!