IT was the moment of truth at Beef Breeding Services, an artificial breeding service centre, just north of Rockhampton.
Two days ago, bull semen had been frozen using a brand-new $50,000 machine that consistently drops the temperature from 5 degrees to minus 120 deg in just eight minutes.
Queensland Country Life was on hand to witness the first thaw with owner and veterinarian Graham Stabler and his right-hand man Cesar Castaneda, who showed us the swimming sperm magnified one thousandfold under the microscope.
"This is the first time I have seen this and we haven't lost anything from pre-freezing to post-thawing," said an excited and relieved Dr Stabler.
"We haven't lost a cell and that's great."
The bull chosen for the first straw had semen that was 60 per cent effective before the freeze, and it has not lost any quality. "If it works out with semen that is not good, then it will be great with good semen," Mr Castaneda said.
The new machine replaces the old system, where the slender grey straws holding the semen are placed on a metal rack and then put into a giant polystyrene container filled with liquid nitrogen.
The temperature in the container is minus 180deg and the challenge has been to raise this to minus 120, which Mr Castaneda has done in a variety of ways using a hair dryer, waving a hat and blowing on it, to name a few.
The test to see if the temperature is correct?
"I bang it with my fist like this," Mr Castaneda said, quickly demonstrating. Holding a hand in there too long will result in an instantly frozen limb.
While this old way has worked well for the past 30 to 40 years, the results are variable, with each batch giving a different result, and a lot of nitrogen is used.
"The old way was very hard to keep consistency with the temperature. This new way, the temperature is controlled," Dr Stabler said.
"When you think about, how could we have done it that way? And that was up until two days ago."
And it all comes down to cost.
Although the machine is expensive, it should make its money by cutting waste and improving efficiency.
Buying it was Mr Castaneda's idea, so the joking threat was placing his head in the old esky if it didn't work.
The Columbian-trained veterinarian has a PhD in animal husbandry and biotechnology from the University of Queensland and worked previously at the DPI.
It was impossible to have the department invest in this type of technology, but he was able to persuade Dr Stabler to make the investment.
With the US now changing their protocols when it comes to importing genetic material from Australia, the machine will come in handy.
"People have asked us about exporting to the US and it was almost impossible, but now it's possible," Dr Stabler said.
Beef Breeding Services has set itself up for export, with bulls being held in separate yards for quarantine, before extracting semen.
Meanwhile, they are getting ready for the bull season and to offer their freezing services to the equine industry and hope their machine is busy.