LOOKINGGLASS, Ore. — Dixie Williams is a registered nurse and an artificial insemination specialist.
She’s been providing an AI service since 1985 and she’s been a nurse since 1989.
She continues to work in both professions.
“I understand the anatomy of both (humans and cows),” said Williams, now 63. “They’re pretty similar.”
Williams, who was certified by the American Breeders Service, is the only AI specialist who “hangs out my shingle and hands out business cards.” Others also AI cows, but they are mainly ranchers who deal with their own herds.
Williams provides the AI service for dairy cows and beef breeds, but mainly works with red and black Angus and polled Herefords. Most of her work through the years has been in Douglas County, but she has made longer trips, providing her service for one cow or for many.
Williams said providing the service is not a full-time job because many large ranches have bulls. But for people raising their own beef, who have only a few cows, she provides the specialty service.
She said her success rate in breeding cows with AI is 73%.
“It’s knowing when cows are in heat, and you have to depend on the livestock owners for that,” Williams explained. “That can be difficult, especially when there’s only one cow.”
She said the best time to breed is at the end of the standing heat cycle that on average lasts 15 to 18 hours.
Being a nurse and working 12-hour shifts, Williams has bred many cows at 5 in the morning or late at night, before or after completing her hospital rounds.
“When the cow is in heat, you only have so much time to get to her,” she said.
Williams said that in her early years as a nurse, a co-worker once asked her about AI. That person expressed surprise that Williams would be allowed to provide that service at the hospital.
“No, I breed cows,” Williams replied with a laugh.
Williams admitted that in her first six months of providing the service, there were times when she wondered about continuing. But she gradually learned and got better at the details of the process and is now an AI expert.
“Once you learn that feel, you visualize where the straw and semen go,” she said. “You have to go slow. You don’t want to create scar tissue.”
Williams said she’s been kicked by a cow or two during the AI process, but she’s never been seriously injured.
“I know you can get hurt so I’m very careful,” she said.
Williams charges $65 to $75 depending on travel to provide semen and the AI service for one cow. She discounts the cost if there are multiple cows at the same location.
“I like providing this service, I like the people I meet and work with,” she said. “I’ve always been ag-related, having been involved in 4-H and FFA as a kid. This is my way of giving back to the people and the industry that helped me.”’
On her home property in the Lookingglass Valley, Williams has her own small herd of dairy and beef cattle, and a few sheep and horses.