It’s an early June morning on Montana’s 60,000-acre Bair Ranch, north of
the Crazy Mountains. Black cow-calf pairs dot the pastures under a frigid
rain. It streams from the hats and soaks the chaps of the men and women who
exit the bunkhouse, fully caffeinated and sated by steak and eggs. They are
here to artificially inseminate 510 Angus/Simmental-cross cows under the
direction of Raymond P. Ansotegui, a wiry 64-year-old with rascally brown
eyes, bushy chops and a tobacco-tinged moustache.
Ansotegui, whose Basque name is pronounced an-SOH´-tuh-ghee, has been
artificially inseminating cattle (AIing) for almost 45 years. An expert on
bovines, he has a Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition and a minor in reproductive
physiology. He taught animal science at Montana State University in Bozeman
for three decades before retiring in 2007. The license on his Ford F250
reads “OEC,” for overeducated cowboy.
In Montana, where beef is big business, you won’t find a better AIer than
Ansotegui. Every spring, the Livingston, Mont., resident hits the road like
a touring rock star, AIing upwards of 3,000 cattle. A revolving cast of