Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bull semen jumps fence to 'axis of evil'

Maybe you saw the story the other day about how exports to the Islamic Republic of Iran have increased tenfold during the time our president has been calling Iran a member of the "axis of evil."

Terrorist supporters, nuclear wanna-bes, Holocaust deniers. Iran is all those things, according to our government, and therefore undeserving of our weapons and other gadgetry. The rhetoric gets more bellicose by the day, but it is not so unbending that it would prevent a nation of 65-million people the right to enjoy the best of American products.

Cigarettes. Brassieres.

And bull semen.

The first two items are no surprise as they fall squarely within the agricultural/medical exemption to the trade sanctions.

The bull semen — nearly $13-million worth of it since 2001, according to the Associated Press — seems harder to explain. Very easy to laugh about, sure, especially if you have some experience as a 13-year-old boy.

"You put bull semen in your title and people are going to read your damn story," says Mike Rakes, vice president of Worldwide Sires, a California company that is one of the largest U.S. exporters of animal genetics.

But it turns out that once you get a reputable purveyor like Rakes on the phone — and get past the sixth-grade jokes — you can see how two countries that won't talk diplomatically can nevertheless benefit from the exchange of some bovine fluids.

• • •

It all starts with a 3,000-pound Holstein bull with a ring in his nose and a lascivious eye trained on the posterior of a young neutered bull — the teaser, in the parlance of artificial insemination. This may not sound like a family values tableau of reproductive propriety, but in the heartland of America when it comes to harvesting the world's best genetic material, best practices do not include the clumsy and potentially dangerous congress of male and female.

That's a job for a professional. A fielder, if you will, who steps between the bull and the object of his desire, sheathes the penis with a water-warmed hose, captures the biologic material in a test tube and gets out of the way before the now-satisfied bull crashes to the floor.

Rakes is a farm-raised veteran of the business. In sales, mostly. "I have not grabbed a bull's penis, no," he says.

What he's selling in that test tube is worth as much as $50,000. And Iranian farmers want it bad, Rakes says.

(A note of warning: If you go to the Internet to figure out why Iranians crave high-quality bull semen, you can get the wrong idea. Plug in the terms Iran and bull semen and you may get a link to a hair salon in London. Trained hair professionals at Hari's Salon combine the ejaculate of an Angus bull with extract from the katera root — a plant that grows in Iran — and then smear it, There's Something About Mary-style, into the frizzy, protein-starved hair of customers willing to pay $110 to achieve "a lubricating tangle-free effect.")

The reason Iranians buy American, Rakes says, is that they're looking for "a high-producing cow, trouble-free and functional. That means really good feet and legs, a strong udder system and good rump structure to give birth easy."

When those are the genetic traits you want and you're willing to pay top dollar, Rakes says, you go to Wisconsin or Ohio.

You do what farmers since before the shah have done: You buy a shipment of Holstein Plus, stored in little straws at 320 degrees below zero, and if you have to wait a few months for the order to clear the bureaucracy in Washington, it's worth it.

Rakes has traveled to Iran more than once. The people he met were "kind, gracious and respectful," he says. "The farmers are all very pro-American. They would be so happy if the political challenges between the U.S. and Iran would go away. Farmers, whether they're from Iran or California, they're nice people."

Someday they ought to make a movie about this heartwarming tale from the land of milk and money. They can call it There's Something About Dairy.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Bull semen jumps fence to 'axis of evil' 07/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 8:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  2. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  3. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein
  4. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

    Gilmore
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]