Madison Initiative for Undergrads enables more hands-on learning in this CALS class

The students are nervous. The cows, not so much. But only because they don’t know what’s coming. They’re lined up in stalls in the Old Dairy Barn—10 Holsteins on one side, 10 Jerseys on the other—where, during the next few hours, they will undergo artificial insemination (AI) by small teams of undergrads who each have a particular cow in their care.

Professor John Parrish and two TAs direct students as they prep for the procedure, which starts by pulling plastic straws filled with bull semen out of frozen storage, thawing them in warm water, and loading them into long syringes called AI guns. The students don long plastic gloves; AI is a two-armed operation. One hand will pilot the AI gun up the cow’s vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus. The other hand, inserted far up the cow’s rectum, presses along the rectal wall to help manipulate the gun into place.

This year the students have gotten to know their cows particularly well. While Animal Science/Dairy Science 434 has long offered students the opportunity to perform AI, that was their only hands-on work with the cows. Now, additional funding through the new Madison Initiative for Undergraduates (MIU), which uses a supplemental tuition charge to improve undergrad education and expand financial aid, has enabled the students to do a whole lot more. Read the full story in CALS News.