Monday, August 1, 2011

The Spice of Life

One of the nice things about being at a small post is the variety in the work. I have a friend in the political section in Paris, one of our larger embassies, and all she does for 40 hours a week is keep an eye on France's relations with the Balkans. It's like that stereotype of specializing until you know everything about nothing. Being the one and only economic officer in Conakry I get to know a little bit about everything. (Except that sometimes I feel like I should really know everything about everything, and even just everything about everything about Guinea is a LOT.)

Anyway. I bring this up because today, in my capacity as agricultural officer, I received a bull semen catalog in the mail. Now, I was previously aware that cattle DNA is big business. I am from Texas after all. I had just never before had the opportunity to leaf through a catalog and familiarize myself with the various available options.

It's a lot like online dating. Each page has a picture of the gentleman, polished to a high gloss to look his best. There are some basic numbers: age, height, weight, mature scrotal circumference. Then it gets into the bovine version of SAT scores: ranks and ratings on a host of factors like marbling, daughters' milk production, and value per pound. Last but not least, each bull has a couple of bullet points for those personal quirks that don't necessarily come through in the numbers. Some of my favorites:
  • A standout for calving ease and carcass - he helps get the bills paid!
  • Your heifers dream about bulls like Selective.
  • Phenotype like no other - if you desire style, width, and muscle, this it it!
  • A true customer satisfier, siring cattle that perform and look good doing it!
  • If there's one bull everyone is talking about...it's Regis.
The catalog also comes with a handy gestation chart and an illustrated guide to insemination. Somehow I doubt Guinea's cattle ranchers have the wherewithal to afford the best bull semen America has to offer, but on the off chance that someone here needs help finding some quality sperm I am now better equipped to point them in the right direction.

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