All West A.I. School students learn the fine details of proper semen handling, as well as safety and environmental tips to make insemination procedures go smoothly.
When you work in the field of genetics, it’s natural to get excited about the bulls and the “progress of the breed.” But what’s also exciting is to learn how those great bulls pass on their genetics to the next generation. Yes, that means how reliable each bull is and what traits they transmit more than others, but it also means the literal translation of that – how do you get cows bred?
All West has an exceptional, well-trained team of technicians that are continually measuring their performance, educating themselves on better techniques, and learning more about reproductive issues and efficiencies. There’s a handful of All West technicians that take this a step further and train others to do the same thing!
Throughout the year, All West offers a host of A.I. training schools across the territory, from Montana to southern California. What’s the value of taking an A.I. class? And from an All West point of view, what’s the value of teaching an A.I. class? We asked the experts!
Left: All West instructor Kevin Lincomfelt oversees some real-time semen handling practice in California Right: Students at Marlin Beck’s A.I. class in Montana have a fantastic facility to learn in no matter what the weather outside!
Marlin Beck has been an A.I. school instructor for 23 years. Based in Missoula, Montana, Marlin is well-practiced in both beef and dairy insemination, and his customer base reflects that equaled expertise. “I teach two A.I. schools a year, and work with a large dairy in Montana as my host farm. They have an excellent set-up with nice facilities and lock-ups, as well as plenty of animals to use. I send the ‘book-work’ part of class to new students ahead of time, and then we have 2.5 days of hands-on experience at the dairy, usually equaling 40+ head for them each to arm. We also work with synchronized cattle at the end of our classes. I will actually breed the cattle, then let students use a dummy gun covered by a protective sheath, so they can thread a cow that’s showing a true heat and feel the difference. It’s very practical knowledge and great real-time experience for them. We also go through semen thawing and cattle handling procedures. I donate the class funds to the dairy for providing such a clean, comfortable, healthy learning environment, and it’s worked out perfectly. I limit class size so that there’s plenty of time for individualized attention, and I have to admit, I’ve never had a problem filling the spaces!
“It’s so exciting for me to work with both dairy and beef customers, and see students gain confidence. I’m sometimes surprised at the ones who really latch on to this and want to keep going, either as a career technician, or someone who wants to help me with big breeding projects, or people who just want to improve their skills at their home farms. Part of my territory covers Hawaii, where I work with several beef customers. This spring, I’ll have nearly half a dozen Hawaiian cowboys coming to Montana to take my class. It’s harder to do a school in the islands because of small cow numbers, but their interest in learning is going to help foster some follow-up training there in the future. I’m not sure that these schools yield a ton of new business for me, but I can tell you that they build relationships with our customers through the love of knowledge and experience…and that’s just incredible!”
Larry Nootenboom, an All West salesman from Burlington, Washington, has also taught A.I. schools for a number of years throughout the western part of the state and Oregon. “One of my favorite moments as an instructor in these classes is when a student has that ‘AHA moment!’ You know exactly when that is because you can see it on their face! They get it. They passed the rod. They realize they can actually navigate through the repro tract and it matches what they learned in the classroom. Or they finally ‘get’ how to improve their A.I. techniques. Even better is when students start getting excited about genetics and how breed-leading genetics can impact their herd…whether that’s a 3-cow backyard beef herd, or a 3,000-cow dairy herd they work at. The true value of these schools is that we show them the power of great genetics and the importance of detailed, precise insemination training.
Left: All West instructor Larry Nootenboom works side-by-side with students at an A.I. school at Martin Dairy in Tillamook, Oregon. Right: Proud graduates! One of Larry Nootenboom’s many A.I. classes was held earlier this fall in Tillamook. In fact, a representative from Tillamook Creamery organized the class through the Young Cooperators’ program, and also became a graduate. Thank you Chandra!
“I like working with people. I like working with cows. I like the one-on-one time watching students learn. I think I have just as much fun at my A.I. schools as they do! With some of my class attendees, I’m the only connection to All West they have, so I take it very seriously. We want their experience to be confidence-boosting, educational and memorable. All that in three days – it’s a heck of a deal!”
One other great outcome of the All West schools is that a graduate will become so interested in genetics and A.I. that they will want to join the All West team full-time. And that’s exactly what happened with Snohomish, Washington, student Matt Pavey! When not busy working as a youth pastor, Matt spent a lot of time riding on farm calls with his friend, All West ProTECH Ryan DeYoung. “I thought I wanted a career in the A.I. business, so I spent about six months riding with Ryan. I couldn’t breed a cow at all when I started, so I signed up for one of Larry’s classes and that basically became my interview for a full-time job. Larry made us all extremely comfortable during class. He didn’t force any expectations on anyone, but rather, let us work on our own terms. He gave us all the ‘book knowledge’ that we needed, and then, gave us a ton of support when we got to the hands-on training part of class. With a smaller class size, we were really able to get a lot of practical experience under our belts. I went from being a student, to a technician in training for All West, to recently completing the All West ProTECH program. Through that, I got to work in California for two concentrated weeks of training and it was phenomenal! It’s changed my career, and I know I wouldn’t be the breeder I am today without it. ProTECH helps you make a lot of decisions with confidence, and the extensive ovary palpation training is amazing. I love working with our customers and really enjoying my technician work. Hopefully that translates into training new technicians in the future.”
It’s a similar story in southern California, where All West technician Carson Hillberg of McFarland, also spends time teaching A.I. schools. “Students are usually dairy employees or small ranch owners, and both groups of people are fun to work with. Some dairy producers like to reward their hardest-working, most dependable employees with more learning opportunities, so I really have a lot of fun working with these people who are excited to learn and want to bring more skills to the big dairies they work at. They may or may not breed cows every day after the school, but they’re wanting to understand more processes on the dairy. On the complete opposite side of the scale, many of the smaller beef owners that attend my classes will go home and put their new A.I. skills to work right away! They tend to be the students who are super excited about genetics and want to study all the different pedigrees of bulls we have in the lineup. I enjoy teaching them all. It makes me excited to do more than just sell semen. I get the chance to build relationships with people and teach them a valuable skill!”
We have a company hashtag that we use quite often and it’s simply #neverstoplearning. At All West we take this philosophy to heart within our team and also within our customer family. Learning to breed cows is essential in the success of any dairy or beef business. Whether you become a skilled technician yourself, you want to learn more about the process to understand what your own technician is doing, or you’re thinking about a full-time career in the A.I. industry, All West has the schools to help you #neverstoplearning!