Since this is an ongoing learning process that is far from complete, I've decided to write this blog in diary format. Given that the format is less formal, be advised that I may do a bit of swearing here and there.
There are sections on resources and takeaways at the bottom of the blog.
Click on the arrows to the left and right of the tabs to scroll through the dates.
November 18, 2021
Buying Semen like it was Toilet Paper during Quarantine
Recently one of my goat friends commented on the number of semen purchases that I've made in the last year. Her comment had the tone of our jokes about me goat shopping in the middle of the night, while (ahem) drunk. To prove her wrong, I did an inventory. Here's what I found:
She may be right.
In my defense, I'm expecting to be incredibly incompetent for the first year or two and am predicting that I will easily burn through five straws to achieve one conception. However, after that I am going to be great.
Why am I so confident?
There's some great educational research on the topic. Here's one video on the topic of perseverance and passion as the strongest predictor of success.
Here's a related video, by another highly respected educational researcher, Carol Dweck. It's on the idea that people who believe that their success is not dependent on their intelligence, but rather on their persistence and willingness to experience failure on the path to learning.
November 20, 2021
Welp, one problem is solved.
Recap: I AI'd a bunch of does on natural heats and came up a big fat zero. I had been monitoring the does and was pulling them to AI approximately 24 hours after their standing heat, basically when I got home from work. Rushed much? Short version, I thought that my mistake was not checking the goo.
Turns out, I was putting the straw in the gun UPSIDE DOWN.
As some of you know, I learned my technique at a Biogenics clinic. I am not blaming them for this. Seriously. My only explanation is that I had an ADHD moment and wrote the information down wrong in my notes. EVERY TIME I loaded my gun I found myself perplexed that I was loading it open end first into the gun, with the wick end going first into the doe. Wouldn't the wick block the passage of semen?
Why yes, yes it would, as evidenced by the large egg yolk-colored stain on the back of Adele's registration papers.
I realized this after doing yet another search for detailed information about loading the straw and finally finding what I needed in the AI 101 booklet sold by Biogenics.
November 22, 2021
Poor, longsuffering Bewitched
This week I am on vacation for an entire week. I'm feeling very grateful for Thanksgiving! However, my goats may be feeling a little less grateful right about now. Here's what happened:
Sunday: Get does used to jumping up on the massive stanchion that I use for AI. Bribe with treats.
November 23, 2021
Bewitched Singing the Song of Her People.
And We Have a Splash and Dash!
11/23/2021 1:25 pm
Bewitched has been standing at the gate to the AI station screaming at me all morning. The strange thing is, her paddock shares a fence line with the bucks. SMH.
As planned (sort of), I AI'd her at approximately 1:00. And forgot the Cystorelin. Again. This time I had the presence of mind to check the mucous. After the fact. And only because she was oozing.
The good news is that the mucous was cloudy and elastic. Her os was tighter than during previous AIs, so it was pretty much a splash and dash.
I'm cautiously optimistic.
Three hundred dollars in straws later - just for these two days of AI.
Nope, so far NOT a money saving project.
The November 28 AI-a-thon
November 28, 2021
Could things go any more wrong?
I Stress, You Stress, We All Stress Together:
Today didn't start well. Last night my neighbors had held an incredibly loud party with the DJ blasting music well after midnight. Then, after a merciful pause, someone decided to plug in an electric guitar. So when the time came to do my planned AIs, I was already feeling ragged.
This is not a good thing when you're planning on sticking a speculum up a goat's va-jay-jay.
Most animals pick up on their handler's moods. Their survival in the wild depends on this sensitivity. Since goats are prey animals they are going to get very worried if something has their personal predator (me) feeling stressed.
What happens when a goat is stressed? Muscles start clenching. Did you know that the vagina is surrounded by muscles? Yeah. I was repeatedly reminded of this fact during the AIs today.
What happens when you stick a speculum in a tight vagina? If you've been to a gynecologist you know exactly how that feels.
Needless to say, I went through a lot of gel.
BTW, I use 3 gram individually wrapped packets of HR gel. I don't want to muck up an AI by using something that may have gotten contaminated. I'm still too busy mucking up AIs in myriad other ways.
My Less-than-Perfect AI Station:
In my clever rearrangement of the AI station, it didn't occur to me that at one point I would be holding an AI-a-thon with five does in the waiting area.
Why so many does in the waiting area? So that they can chill out in an area where they are used to relaxing AND be easily accessible when it is their turn. I'm doing a large group for a couple of reasons: (1) I'm expecting that maybe 1/3 will take and (2) it's my last chance to AI for kids during my Spring break from teaching.
It didn't occur to me that my back would be up against the divider door between the two pens (when it was closed), allowing the next victim to nibble on my shirt (yes that happened) and restricting my movement. When I AI'd Bewitched I had closed the exterior barn door, keeping the other goats out, but left the divider door open.
But being chewed on was the least of my problems.
And Then This Happened:
Let's start with Adele.
Why am I starting with Adele? I checked her mucous (yay me!) at 8:30 am and discovered that she was in her dry window.
I assembled the kit. This time I remembered the Cystorelin, which I had already loaded into individual syringes for each doe yesterday. The thermos reached the right temperature and I retrieved my straw. I thawed the straw for 30 seconds in the wet bath, dried it, loaded it into the gun and then inserted the unit into the sheath, placing the unit in the dry bath. Something looked off, so I pulled the gun out of the dry bath. The sheath fell off. It hadn't locked on. WTF? I messed with it, then gave up and headed to the AI station. The ten minute timer that I had set was counting down rapidly. Or so I thought.
In the barn, I put Adele up on the fitting stand with the sling under her belly, giving her treats each step of the way. She was tight (see above). I achieved good penetration with the gun, but could not get it to dispense the semen correctly. I messed with it (again), getting increasingly anxious (so helpful!). Finally, I gave up, pulled out, and checked the straw. It had a solid half inch left. I moved Adele to the waiting area, noting that my ten minute timer never went off (huh?).
It might have helped if I had remembered to hit the start button.
Not My Brightest Move:
Back in the kitchen, as I cleaned up my equipment, I took a hard look at the straw. Crap on a cracker. I forgot to cut the plug off. It might have helped if I had remembered to review the AI Manual as I worked. It's not like it wasn't on top of my AI kit the entire time.
I popped a Vistaril, opened the manual, and began cleaning equipment in preparation for AIing the next doe.
Why the Vistaril? Vistaril is an antihistamine that also works for anxiety. I highly recommend having some on hand. Seriously. When I'm stressed I make more mistakes. I know, Captain Obvious here.
My plan was to AI the does in AM and PM, just like I had done with Bewitched.
I checked mucous (8:00-9:00 am).
Attempted first AI at 9 am (Adele).
Rearranged AI station to keep Hazel from chewing on me while I worked. Cleaned equipment, reviewed manual, prepped the next straw.
AI'd Clover (not sure of time). When I checked her mucous earlier this morning it was cloudy and elastic. The AI went well.
Cleaned up and prepared equipment.
Sugar finished at 11:33 am. For being such a bee-ach lately, and making me lift her substantial front end up on the stand, her AI went well.
More clean up and prep.
Leia finished at 12:23. Easy penetration, emptied full contents of straw.
More clean up and prep.
Hazel finished at 1:20. Hazel had fought hard during the mucous exam and caused a bit of bleeding. So I went extra gentle, deposited the semen quickly, then pulled out. When I examined the gun there was some semen left in the straw. SMH.
Better that than to keep working when she was visibly upset and starting to struggle again. Blood is a spermicide, so I wanted to avoid another bleeding episode.
I did some binge eating and then cleaned and packed up the equipment.
I'll ultrasound Bewitched on December 23 and this last group of victims on December 28.
She's back in heat. Cuhhhhhraaaap.
11:30 am Saturday, December 11:
Bewitched is flirting with the bucks. Shameless hussy! And exactly on the day of her predicted next heat.
I can't blame this on the semen yet. I'm not skilled enough to make that claim, so I'm going to lay the blame firmly at the feet of my timing.
It's time to get serious about mucous.
8:00 am, Sunday December 12:
I decided to follow Jena Williams (thank you!) advice and check her every 12 hours. That meant 11:30 am and pm on Saturday. I figured that I'd check her again first thing on Sunday. Which ended up being 8:00ish.
Fortunately Bewitched is pretty indiscriminate about who she does business with. Did I mention that she's a shameless hussy?
She raced me to the AI station, bleating the entire way.
And that is when I started getting annoyed with my equipment.
9:30, December 12
The first thing to go was the AI light. Trying to peer down a long speculum, while competing with the light, light holder, and AI gun is a non-starter when your eyes are as crappy as mine. After trying three different endoscopes (read: Goldilocks), I finally landed on the just-right version (thank you, Facebook AI group!). I've settled on the Teslong portable digital microscope. It's designed for use with Androids, but it's also plug and play with my Windows 10 camera. That's how I can take pictures like the one in the "Time to get serious about mucous" post.
My next challenge was securing the endoscope in the speculum. The Biogenics speculum has a funky handle-ish thingy at the end (how's that for technical terminology?). It works okay with the partner light that they sell, but to make my endoscope work best (e.g., not flop around and get in my way), I had scavenged a pen clip.
The other thing that I like about this speculum is that I can fit a nice, prepackaged alcohol prep thingy around the shaft to disinfect it in between uses.
I'm hoping that this new setup will enable me to insert the speculum with minimal drama AND get a unobstructed view of the mucous and the os.
Bewitched has been super chill this entire time. I'm sure that it helped that we're both used to the routine now. I didn't even bother with the Hoyer lift. I just let her munch at her usual milk stand and occasionally fed her animal crackers during the procedure. Things looked great, so I let her relax in the holding area while I prepped my equipment. I'm a little suspicious of the last semen that I used, so I'm going with semen from a different processor this time.
One of the things that surprised me now that I'm using a clear speculum and endoscope was the realization that things move and shift around A LOT as the goat moves. That was not one bit visible before, when I was just using a light.
So, I took my time and searched for the os. I was able to see when the speculum was moving into the shelf above the os, pulled out slightly and then realigned. I adjusted focus (maybe too much) and tried again. Then I realized that I was pushing into a crease around the os (like I said, maybe a bit too magnified now). I put the gun back in the thermos, fed Bewitched another animal cracker, and searched some more.
I found it again. Yay!
Using the endoscope I was able to navigate the gun into the os and gained full penetration. It went in possibly a bit too easily. I flirted with the idea of doing a second AI later today, but decided that I want to see if this one worked.
Note for the future: figure out a way to set the endoscope's focus and keep it set there.
December 17, 2021
I'm cautiously hopeful.
Clover and Leia were at the fenceline about 4 days after AI, so I'm guessing that they short-cycled. Sigh.
The good news is that it's 21 days out, the predicted next heat, and I'm not seeing the other does at the fence line.
And a bit more research . . .
December 18, 2021
I've been listening to some podcasts, reviewing notes, and checking in with my group. Here's what I've learned.
December 23, 2021
Sugar and Adele have both come into heat. Their predicted next heat, if the AI didn't work, was December 16. So, nice job messing with my head. Just when I was beginning to think that the AI was successful, BOOM, you lower the hammer. Right before Christmas. Grrrr.
I'm not sure why they came back in so late (26 days), but I'm guessing that the AI failed due to a combination of the does moving around and me having poor visibility.
AI group to the rescue! One of my AI group friends suggested that 26 days would be just about perfect if the does had also short cycled. Yup. One of the things that I am learning about AI is that short-cycling is very common. Thank you Felicia Payne Nicholson for that insight.
Ah well. I'm used to a miserably long learning curve. The good news is that I know myself. Once I get this learning curve out of the way I should be pretty darned successful.
I flirted with the idea of live cover this time. But, it occurred to me that I have solved the visibility problem AND I'm on winter break from teaching. So, why not give it one more try? Plus, I need to take a look inside to make sure that nothing funky is going on in there.
It's getting cold outside, so I think that I'm going to put a heating pad under the tray that holds my speculum, so that it isn't uncomfortably cold when I put it in the does.
Happy New Year!
The breeding season is winding down and the results are sort-of in.
Bewitched came into heat this morning. At 9:30 am she was standing at the buck fence, flagging. Panache attended to her needs.
Clover is currently displaying a weak heat. She's been on the fence line, getting the boys' interest, but not flagging. I'm not breeding her because she looks too thin to my eyes. If the AI didn't take, then she's officially retired.
I've been obsessing over Clover's ultrasounds . . . that is now in a new blog about ultrasounds.
No news from the Leia department outside of the fact that she's fat. That girl had better get preggo soon before I throw her in the Jenny Craig pen.
It is what it is.
P.S. Leia came into heat on Jan 2. Panache met her needs.
It's a wrap!
Clover's blood test is in.
I'll do better next year. Mistakes are essential to the learning process. I make a lot of mistakes along the way, but when I crest the top of the learning curve, I am amazing. I just need to be patient with my process.
Here are a few of the things I'm planning on doing differently next time:
Here is a TED talk on "The Strongest Predictor for Success" by Angela Lee Duckworth, who is one of the most respected educational researchers of her generation.