By RACHAL PINKERTON
SUNNYSIDE — Washington State University graduate Pat Wolf has a messy job. He artificially inseminates cows for All West Select Sires.
Wolf grew up in Pomeroy, Washington on a dry land wheat farm and cattle ranch.
“I showed steers through 4-H and FFA,” said Wolf. “Then I went to Walla Walla Community College for two years before going to WSU.”
He majored in animal science and minored in ag economics at WSU, graduating in 1998. Prior to college, Wolf had been interested in the reproductive side of beef cows.
During his time at WSU, he was able to take classes that encouraged that interest. Wolf’s college advisor connected him with a man in Sunnyside who was breeding cows.
“That’s how I got my start,” Wolf said. “I worked with him for a short time before starting with All West Select Sires.”
All West Select Sires, based out of Burlington, is a cooperative that is part of the Select Sires larger cooperative. All West Select Sires covers Washington, Oregon and parts of Idaho and western Montana. Wolf’s job is to detect when a cow is in heat and to artificially inseminate the animal. He primarily works with dairy cows.
“I do a little bit of beef cows,” said Wolf. “But 99 percent is dairy cows.”
To tell when a cow is in heat, Wolf puts spray paint on the tail head of each cow. Cows that are in heat are mounted by other cows, rubbing the paint off. When the paint disappears, he knows she is ready. Before doing the artificial insemination, Wolf checks the information on the cow, such as when she was last bred. Based on this information, she is matched up with one of a few different bulls that live in the Midwest.
The semen from bulls is put into quart cc straws and frozen in liquid nitrogen. It is shipped from the Select Sires office in Ohio to Burlington where it is distributed to technicians like Wolf. When Wolf is ready to breed a cow, he unfreezes the straw.
“Once it’s thawed, it’s ready to put into the cow,” Wolf said.
All West Select Sires contracts Wolf to a dairy in Sunnyside with 7,000 cows.
“It is a full-time job,” said Wolf. “I start at 5 a.m. It’s six to eight hours a day.”
Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.