From hairdressing to cow insemination – Dunedin man hangs up his scissors for semen straws

category AB Technicians

Robert Dahm was a hairdresser for 35 years and had never set foot in a cow shed.

Now, Dunedin resident Robert is an Artificial Breeding (AB) technician for CRV Ambreed and has spent the last 10 years servicing dairy farms from Clydevale to Oamaru.

Turns out Robert has quite a talent for getting cows in calf, winning this year’s CRV AB technician of the year award the Otago region. His job involves helping dairy farmers breed healthy efficient cows they love to milk. So far, he has inseminated more than 36,000 cows.

Artificial breeding or artificial insemination in cattle is the process by which semen is collected from a bull, stored in a straw and used by the AB technician to inseminate cows. The AB technician visits the farm every day for 6-8 weeks, typically during October and November. A far cry from styling and cutting hair in a salon.

“I was ready for a change of direction,” he says. “One of my hairdressing clients was an AB technician and encouraged me to give it a go.

“I love it and I’ve never looked back!” he says. “I enjoy building strong relationships with my farmers and it is gratifying that they put trust in me to do the job. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of fun and extremely rewarding.”

Robert gets a kick out of returning to his clients’ dairy farms the following year and seeing thousands of calves that he helped create. Following graduating from the Technician Training Programme, Robert was provided with on the job monitoring and support by CRV.

More than 10,000 dairy farmers across the country have begun mating this month (October). Many of these farmers are breeding for healthy, happy, productive cows, with great temperaments and smaller environmental footprints. A cow’s gestation period is about 9 months, so cows inseminated now will calve from July next year.

In New Zealand, professionally trained AB technicians do the majority of inseminations. They are responsible for the handling and insemination of semen. CRV has more than 200 technicians across the country.

An AB technician must understand animal anatomy to ensure correct placement of semen in the cow’s reproductive tract. The job demands skillful handling to ensure the safety and well-being of both the animal and the inseminator.

CRV National AB Manager Craig Scott says the company is continually investing in new technologies and genetic innovations to help farmers breed healthy and efficient cows.

“But if our AB technician team doesn’t do a good job of delivering these products and services to farmers, the value of all that hard work and investment won’t be fully realised.

“Getting cows in calf is our number one priority. I congratulate Robert for the part he plays in delivering gold standard service to our farmer customers.”

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