TAUREAU VANIR BAY, WISCONSIN — 42 year old Jack Poolenpud has been working at the local bovine fertility in his town since he joined the work force right out of high school. Jack says he took the job because his father and his father’s father had also worked at the clinic, The North Wisconsin Institute of Bovine Procreation, and he wanted to “carry on in their footsteps.”
“Grampa and Dad were both bovine semen extraction technicians, and you can’t have cows without bull semen, so if you lived in Wisconsin and drank milk or ate cheese any time in the last forty years, you had their hands all over what went into your mouth,” Poolenpud told us via Skype. “It’s an honorable, important position, and it takes a keen head as well as pretty great dexterity and grip.”
For over 20 years, Jack has worked on the seminal extraction team at NWIBP. He started on the bottom of the pole, but quickly worked his way up to the tip-top.
“When I first started, I was responsible for just taking the bull from the holding pen to the extraction wing. It was fun, for sure, but it wasn’t long before they were putting more in my hands to do.”
Over the years, Poolenpud has seen more and more technology and innovation creep into the bovine fertility industry. When his grandfather started, he says it was an “all manual process.” He said his grandfather would often talk about how stiff his hands were after a long day at the institute, and that toward the end of his career, his fingers were permanently stuck in a circular shape.
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“So by the time my pops came around, they’d started to roll-out a few pieces of tech to make the job a little easier,” Jack told us. “But when you’re working the hand jobs at the clinic, you’re still gonna end up really feeling it by the end of the day.”
In the last two years, Poolenpud says he’s become increasingly convinced that he will soon be out of a job. That’s because in that time, the clinic purchased five bull semen extraction units that fully automate what Jack does.
“I used to tell my boss those bull’s ain’t gonna jerk themselves off, but that was before the robot started doing exactly that,” Poolenpud said with real sadness in his voice.
Jack says that what makes him “most upset” is that the semen extraction robots aren’t as affable or friendly with the bulls. He says that he developed a “real raport” with each bull he extracted biomatter from. But the extraction robots “don’t even crack a joke.”
“Bulls like to be talked to while you milk them,” Jack said. “But these robots are all work and no talk. Which I guess helps the clinic get more bull juice at of the bulls at the end of the day, but I’m sorry, I have to ask, at what cost?”
Wisconsin used to have a bull semen extractor’s union, but that was busted up by former Governor Scott Walker, who said “regular people don’t deserve the same rights as job creators do.” This means Jack feels he could lose his job at any moment. Luckily, he lives pretty frugally, he said, and he thinks he can survive, but he’s not sure for how long.
“At my age, and my very specialized skill set, I’m not sure where else I can go,” Jack said. “I’ve even talked to local human sperm banks, but apparently they’re prohibited by law to have someone else extract the stuff from their patients. Which feels like anti-human discrimination to me. But we’re living in a pro-bot world, so what can you do?”
Next week, Jack says he’ll attend a job fair in a nearby town. He hopes to find some employment opportunities to put in his back pocket until he needs them. Though he hopes that his worst fears about automation at the clinic won’t come to fruition.
“You know, a lot of people come around here,” Jack said, “and a lot of people have been released. But I’ve managed to hang on through it all, so I hope I can do that one more time. Maybe the robots will need maintenance and I can do that. I don’t know. I’m just crossing my fingers, and hoping I haven’t shot my wad just yet. 20 plus years of yanking bull cranks has taught me to expect anything at any time, though.”
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