Just how do you start to chronicle the 75 year history of All West/Select Sires? We’re going to attempt to do that this year in a number of historical stories that will appear online at www.allwestselectsires.com. We’ll talk about people, and events, and bulls that shaped “How the All West was Won,” but for now, we need to start the history at square one.
All West/Select Sires is one of nine cooperatives that make up the Select Sires Federation and covers Washington, Oregon, California, Northern Idaho, and Western Montana. However, All West did not begin as a partner in the federation, but rather as a small farmer-owned group in Washington known for a short time as Skagit County Artificial Breeders. As more breeding groups joined the ranks in the early 40s, the cooperative became known across the state as Northwest Co-op Breeders and later All West Breeders. Over time, the group would change names and expand to cover the entire west coast, eventually merging with the Select Sires Federation in 1975.
The cooperative had its humble beginnings around a kitchen table in Mount Vernon, Washington where three dairymen, a veterinarian, and retired dairy extension specialist shared a meal and discussed the need to establish an artificial insemination cooperative. During this time, artificial insemination was done with fresh semen collected from bulls no earlier than three days prior to the act of breeding. This made it imperative for the group to purchase a local farm to house rented bulls and later hire a full-time bull man to care for the animals. The first piece of property was officially purchased in 1944 on Pulver Road in Burlington, WA.
And possibly we’re getting ahead of ourselves, for if we really want to talk about the history of All West, we should talk a little bit about the history of artificial insemination in the first place. What was this “new technology” that prompted the formation of All West?
A.I. was first methodized for livestock in the early 1900s by a man named Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov in Russia. The rationale behind his work was to speed up the rate of genetic improvement by increasing the productivity of food producing animals. Today, the goal is still to improve the genetics of livestock, but also to provide a safe and more efficient way to breed production animals.
The way many know and understand the A.I. industry now has much to do with the numerous advancements the industry went through during the 1940s and 50s. One of the most groundbreaking advancements would arguably be the introduction of cold storage of semen. Historically, spermatozoa were among the first cells to ever be frozen and then reused at a later point in time. Today, semen is stored in liquid nitrogen because its -196 C temperature provides longer and safer storage conditions. The first reported case of cold storage of semen was noted by Italian scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani in the 1780s when he discovered that snow would effectively immobilize human semen. Prior to the 1950s introduction of liquid nitrogen, freezing and storage was occasionally done with dry ice and alcohol at a temperature of -79 C. In July of 1961 All West purchased their first liquid nitrogen freezer with the initiation of a frozen semen program to follow in September of that same year. However, the cooperative didn’t make the switch to using entirely frozen semen until 1963.
The increased use and general acceptance of A.I. biotechnology has allowed cattle producers to utilize genetically superior sires in their herd, have the ability to maintain a closed herd status, no longer house dangerous bulls on the farm, and allow for more organized breeding management programs. The success of A.I. in cattle in the United States has significantly changed reproduction management in the past 75 years.
So ultimately, the invention of artificial insemination, and a kitchen-table conversation between enthusiastic and passionate dairy industry people, paved the way for the birth of All West. And as was the case 75 years ago, the same thought directs the cooperative today…Your Success Is Our Passion.
This is the first in a series of stories that will appear on www.allwestselectsires.com in 2016 as part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of All West. Through the year, we’ll be taking a look at the history of the company, the people, the bulls and the products that helped shape us into what we are today. We hope you’ll enjoy reading our historical accounts and let us know if you have any of your own memories to share in this celebration of 75 years!
Be sure to check out our video of the month on the website, as well, as we talk with some early board members of All West to get their perspective of “How the All West was Won!” We kicked off the video series on January 1 with the former CEO of Select Sires Inc., Mr. Richard Chichester.
All West/Select Sires is one of nine member-owned cooperatives in the U.S. that make up the federation of Select Sires Inc. All West exists to enhance member/owners’ success through genetics. To find out more about the company culture of All West, including information on bulls, products and services, please visit www.allwestselectsires.com or phone 800.426.2697.