Artificial Breeding (AB) technician Dirk van den Ven estimates he has inseminated half a million cows in his 40-year career.
The 60-year-old is originally from Holland, but has been living in New Zealand with his wife Mieke since 2012, based in Winton.
Dirk has been named the 2019 CRV Ambreed AB Technician of the Year for the Southland region.
The award recognises Dirk’s commitment, competency and excellent cow return rates, meaning his success at ensuring cows are in calf.
Dirk says before he and Mieke moved to New Zealand, they used to travel from Holland every October (starting in 2008) to work for CRV during the New Zealand AB season, which back then typically lasted six to eight weeks.
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, normally between October and November. However, Dirk says the seasons are getting longer, lasting 9-12 weeks as less farmers use bulls in the paddock on their herds.
“This year we are already so busy, because the overseas AB technicians who may have flown into New Zealand to work during the season cannot travel because of border restrictions linked to Covid-19,” says Dirk.
Dirk first trained with CRV’s predecessor company in Holland as a 21-year-old.
“I work not for the money only. I like seeing a good cow and the only way you get a good cow is by breeding one,” says Dirk.
“In Holland, when I realised I wouldn’t be taking over the family farm, I decided to do the next best thing and learn how to breed good cows. I learnt to do that with CRV, and I have been with them ever since.”
Dirk says he has been approached by other companies to work for them, but he prefers to stay with CRV, which he says has been a great company to work for.
Dirk credits his wife Mieke for his success, who works as his loader on their AB run. Dirk says he couldn’t do his job without her.
“She handles all the paperwork, she drives me, she makes us food, and she helps me cool my heels when it gets stressful, which it can do when you’re working long hours during the peak of the season.”
Dirk says the job requires patience, a sense of humour and most importantly, an interest in farming and an interest in caring for animals. In the off-season Dirk also runs a small hoof trimming business from the couple’s base in Winton.