Melrose Man Leads State in Artificial Insemination
By John Welsh, Saint Cloud Times, 1992

John Caspers, Melrose, a technician for Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, inseminated a cow Thursday during one of four appointments for the day.  Caspers, one of 14 people in the country to inseminate more than 150,000 cows, plans to retire next month.   

MELROSE預fter 43 years in the business, John Caspers is about to stick his arm in his last cow.

Caspers, 64, expects to retire in the next month as a technician for Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, the state's largest cow breeding service company.

When he retires, Caspers will have inseminated more than 164,000 cows, the most in the sate.  He is one of only 14 people to receive a certificate from the National Association of Animal Breeders for 150,000 serviced cows.

Caspers isn't sure if there will be many technicians who will reach those marks because of changes in the business and the dairy industry, but he said the cow insemination business has provided a nice living for him.

"It's quiet and peaceful," Caspers said of his daily rounds. "You work hard in the winter when there's not much to do and in the summer you have more leisure time."

A cow is in heat for only a day, so after a farmer notices it at a milking Caspers must get to the farm that afternoon or the next morning. Like the 110 dairy farmers he serves, he works seven days a week and has gone eight to 10 months without a day off.

One Christmas Day he had to put in a nine-hour shift as he serviced 32 cows.

Caspers began his career in October of 1948 shortly after his high school graduation. Raised on a dairy farm south of Melrose, Caspers's father suggested he look for work off the farm and train to be a tester for Dairy Herd improvement Association, which provides testing services to producers.

But soon he became more interested in the artificial insemination business, which was in its infancy.

At first some farmers didn't trust artificial inseminating, fearing their cows may be harmed by the new technique. But the methods' benefits擁ts more reliable and it brings better genetics to herds耀oon prompted more framers to call Caspers.

In his first year he serviced 1,183 cows. By 1970 he was servicing close to 5,000 cows a year, even though his service area had been split in two. Since then, the number of cows Caspers is servicing has shrunk as the number of dairy farms decrease and some farmers do the job themselves.

After four decades in the business, Caspers woks quickly. During his Thursday afternoon rounds he usually had his work don in less than 15 minutes.

The semen in Casper's' nitrogen-cooled container comes from about 100 different bulls and ranges in price from $6 to $90 depending on the individual bull's breed and performance record.

Dairy producers try to pick the most economical specimen that will add needed traits, such s btter foot angel or udder, to their herd.

Once a semen sample is selected it is thawed and placed in a two-foot tube. With arm-length plastic gloves, Caspers slides his left hand into the cow's rectum and uses his right hand to place the tube in the uterus, which he positions with his left hand. The process takes less than a minute and is mostly uneventful though a cow occasionally will kick.

When he started his business Caspers did his work without gloves and kept only a limited supply of semen samples under ice. During his tenure the field of artificial insemination has contributed with other changes in the industry to help farmers get vastly increased production and quality.

"Genetics are considerably better now and the feed and management is higher today than it used to be," he said. "The cow is a stronger, more functional animal today."

Caspers and his wife, Bert, had lived in their home on the Sauk River about a mile west of Melrose for nearly 40 years. Among their eight children, age 22 to 39, are two doctors, a published author, a teacher and a lawyer.

With many hobbies including biking, hiking and hunting, Caspers said he'll miss his work but he still looks forward to retirement.

"I'll be 65 I October. Isn't that good enough reason?" he said.