|By SARAH B. AUBREY
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — When Genetic Connection opened in October 2004, they didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to beef and dairy bull studs, but they did plan to become a rare combination in the bovine reproductive business.
“We’re a full-service, custom A.I. (artificial insemination) business, but we’ve also added a very rare combination. We cover every facet of reproduction from semen collection and storage to breeding cows and doing embryo transfer,” said Jared Jark, one of four members of Genetic Connection’s ownership group, Reproductive Management Service.
“We offer the unique opportunity to use freshly collected semen on problem donor cows. Vets tell us that we can pick up several eggs per cow this way. We are a Trans Ova Embryo Facility, and that has given a lot of faith in us from customers.”
Jark pointed out that another bull stud that had gone out of business previously occupied Genetic Connection’s business site. Trans Ova is considered to be a leader in the embryo transfer industry.
Genetic Connection, an independent distributor of semen from bulls they collect and other available bulls, is located north of Springfield on 125 acres.
“Our setup is uniquely designed in that each bull not only has his own pen and outdoor lot, but bulls get rotated into a grass lot for even more exercise,” said Jark.
He noted that this much space for the bulls is not common at other A.I. stud facilities. The company houses up to 30 beef and dairy bulls at one time, and Genetic Connection collects semen from the bulls twice per week. Semen can be shipped anywhere in the United States and all over the world.
“We’ve just been cleared to ship to China, which is a big deal for certain customers, especially dairy,” Jark said.
Jark conducts all A.I. work on cows used for the donor program and assists with marketing the facility. Certified embryologist veterinarians are brought in regularly to conduct embryo transfer, and two full-time staff cares for the bulls and facilitates semen collection and storage.
Many cattle breeders know that the bovine reproductive business is expanding, especially in terms of embryo transfer services, but Jark also sees technological advances emerging in the A.I. side of the business, too.
“The biggest change will be with the ability to sex semen,” he said. “Right now it can be done, but the technology is still too expensive. But it will be a big deal in the future.”
Collection and storage of semen is a labor-intensive process.
“We have to have a bull that is at least one year of age; and if he’s been with cows, he needs to be isolated at least 5-7 days to maximize production,” said Kyla Kuipers, production manager for Genetic Connection. “Many beef breeders don’t really understand what goes into the semen collection process.”
The process for collecting bulls is typical of most facilities. The collected semen is transferred to a water bath and a machine counts the sperm concentration to determine the density of the bull’s output. This factor tells the technician the number of straws produced from that collection. Then, Kuipers checks a sample under the microscope to make certain the semen is quality enough to freeze.
The fresh semen is cooled for two hours then an egg yolk-based extender is added and the semen is forced into the straws by a filling machine. Each bull’s name, registration number and collection date is preprinted on each filled straw.
“Most people don’t realize that the semen is not frozen initially in the liquid nitrogen, it has to be frozen in the vapors for 10-12 minutes first, then it is plunged into the tank,” she clarified.
The following day, Kuipers rechecks the frozen semen for motility and concentration twice before the product gets distributed to customers.
Genetic Connection can store about 1 million units of semen at one time as well as house up to 150 donor cows. Recipient cows, or those cows that calve out the donor cow’s embryos, are also available for purchase through the company or the customer can bring their own recipient cow for embryo transfer work. The facility is open to the public for viewing sires at any time.
Published in the September 21, 2005 issue of Farm World.