Getting cows in calf has become part of the family business for CRV artificial breeding technician Joanne Polglaze from Kaikohe.
Polglaze took on a career artificially inseminating cows after being inspired by her technician husband, David, and son Matt.
With breeding season now under way around New Zealand, she has recently been named CRV Technician of the Year for the Northland region, inseminating more than 3500 cows in the 2020 spring mating season.
Polglaze completed her technician training with CRV in 2015, after watching her husband David and son Matt at work and thinking how she'd like to give it a go too.
Now there is healthy competition between the three of them.
"Competition is good and we do compare notes throughout the season," she said.
"We're always asking how each other's run went and how many cows we did.
"Other people would probably look sideways at us and think, oh my goodness."
Polglaze said she loves the challenge of working with cows and her non-return rate of 74 per cent, well above the regional and national average, proves she's good at what she does.
Her husband was her mentor after she did her initial training with CRV and the couple spent a season inseminating large herds of cows in South Canterbury.
The pair spent another season on the Central Plateau which Polglaze says helped her advance her skills.
"Now David jokes that he gives me all the easy cows."
The couple live on their own farm in Kaikohe, where they have contract milkers managing their split calving herd, which reaches a peak of about 280 cows in milk each season.
While they normally manage their own artificial breeding runs, Polglaze says they have been working together at the start of this season before the Northland farms start to breed their herds with more sexed semen.
Sexed semen is more challenging to work with as it requires different thawing and straw handling procedures to avoid temperature fluctuations.
"There has been a real trend towards using sexed semen, which helps to reduce bobby calf numbers because farmers can breed heifers," Polglaze said.
"You do have to be slightly more careful in your handling of it, however, so we've been making sure we have our practices right."
While the job is now second nature, Polglaze said learning the skills needed to successfully inseminate a cow were harder than she initially anticipated.
"I remember watching David in those early days and thinking I could do that.
"By day two of the training course, I was calling my son Matt and saying it was too hard, but he said, come on Mum, you can do it."
Polglaze said her son was thrilled when she was awarded technician of the year.
"For all of us when we go into the shed, our priority is the cows and keeping things calm," she said.
"Cows are intelligent and can pick up your energy, so you need to be calm and quiet with them.
"It's definitely become a bit of a family career for us."
In New Zealand, professionally trained AB technicians do the majority of inseminations.
They are responsible for the handling and insemination of semen and CRV has more than 200 technicians across the country.
An AB technician must understand animal anatomy to ensure the correct placement of semen in the cow's reproductive tract.
The job demands skilful handling to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both the animal and the inseminator.