CTAHR's Mealani Research
Station crew and Extension faculty conduct artificial insemination training
once a year.
Station on the Big Island is the perfect living lab for researching cattle
production in the tropics and subtropics. In this field, genetics is key, and
now the college is researching how to match cattle qualities with the areas
where they’ll be raised, including fitness for the amount of rain and sun, the
temperature and humidity, and the types of forage growing there. In areas with
high humidity, cows with smooth hair do better than those with thick, coarse
coats. Cattle with high growth potential should be matched with areas with
ample nutritious forage material, while those that will grow to be smaller can
graze in places with lower-quality feedstuffs.
matching is particularly important in Hawai‘i because of the Islands’ diverse
and distinct microclimates—even individual ranchers ideally may have a “makai herd”
and a “mauka herd” with different varieties. Also, because the potential rangelands
here are relatively small, it’s crucial to maximize efficiency to compete in
Mealani uses two
modes of breeding, artificial insemination (AI) and “natural service.” For AI,
the semen is chosen based on desired genetic traits and shipped frozen to the
Station. Mealani typically holds AI School once a year, when UH students and
local ranchers come to gain the physical prowess complementing the cutting-edge
research. Immobilizing the cow in the “squeeze chute” takes perfect timing and
tremendous physical strength, while inserting the long, narrow syringe requires
delicate manipulation. At a recent breeding day Animal Sciences major Keala
Cowell, interning with Extension agent Michael DuPonte, got hands-on
instruction in the process and agreed it’s harder than it looks.
breeding program is thriving. Its bulls rank among the top 5% and even 1% of
Angus in the country.
involved in the natural service breeding too. Before being loosed into the
field with the cows, the specially chosen bulls are fitted with cone-shaped
metal muzzles daubed with paint. This device makes ingenious use of bulls’
observed behavior: when mating they touch their noses to the cows’ backs. The
paint on the muzzle marks the cows, keeping track of those that have been serviced.
program is thriving. Recent genetic testing showed Mealani’s bulls rank among
the top 5% and even 1% of Angus in the country, and they’re also free of a
common genetic disorder, Developmental Duplication. Mealani hopes soon to make
semen from its elite bulls available by contracting with a commercial stud.
Best of all, more and more local ranchers are able to use the Station’s
research for their operations, including buying the prime-bred bulls for their