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Sexed semen demand surges among farmers

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The drive to reduce bobby calves in the dairy industry has seen demand surge for sexed semen from farmers.
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Malcolm Ellis | September 08, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

The semen is used to help farmers accelerate genetic gain within their herd by providing a 90% chance of producing a heifer calf.

It provides surplus calves with having an increased chance of being retained on farm and destined for either domestic or export beef markets.

Both LIC and CRV Ambreed, the two main suppliers of sexed semen in New Zealand, say demand has jumped in recent years.

LIC general manager of New Zealand markets Malcolm Ellis said demand for fresh sexed bull semen has been steadily increasing over the last few seasons with this year set to more than triple 2019 sales.

“With farmers proactively looking at ways to mitigate consumer, environmental and animal welfare concerns, sexed semen is a useful tool to have in their tool box,” he said.

“Over recent years in the New Zealand dairy sector the capital gain model that thrived is over and regulatory and environmental considerations are front of mind.

“Farmers have become acutely aware that if they are unable to milk more cows, they need to milk better ones. This means that increasing genetic gain through breeding the best quality heifer calves has become an even more valued aspect of dairy farmers’ seasonal focus.”

The increase in demand has seen LIC include all three major dairy breeds as part of its catalogue.

CRV product development manager Peter van Elzakker said they too have seen a jump in demand for its frozen sexed semen over the past two years.

Van Elzakker said if farmers wanted to use the product to get better heifers, they should look at the quality of the bulls they are using.

“For this year, the forward orders that we have in the system are double of that for last year.”

People used sexed semen to build up the replacement numbers in their herd and others used it strategically to get heifers from their best animals and mate the remainder of their herd with dairy-beef genetics.

“They are looking at the quality of their programmes and are using sexed [semen] as a tool.” 

There were other farmers who saw the opportunities for having additional females and selling the calves.

Decisions to use the semen for animal welfare reasons was becoming a bigger factor, he said.

Owl Farm at St Peter’s School near Cambridge and Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) both use sexed semen as part of their herd improvement strategies. 

Both have achieved similar conception and non-return results with fresh sexed semen compared to conventional liquid semen within their respective 2019 mating programmes.

Fresh sexed semen is part of the main strategy behind LUDF’s breeding programme, LUDF consultant Jeremy Savage said.

“With fresh sexed semen we are able to produce high genetic merit heifer replacements out of our best breeding cattle. In addition, it enables us to reduce bobby calf numbers and breed beef animals instead, which are more marketable,” he said.

“Using liquid or fresh sexed semen should increase your herd’s profitability over time. It speeds up the rate of genetic progress and should be considered a strategic investment to increase profitability in the long-term.”

Owl Farm manager Tom Buckley said speed and ease are some of the benefits of using liquid sexed semen compared to frozen.

“We’ve been using LIC’s fresh sexed semen for a year to drive genetic gain within the herd with great results and we will continue to do so. 

“We’ve also been able to put a greater percentage of our herd to beef. It’s been an opportunity to increase our tactical use of beef breeds to increase stock sales revenue and part of our efforts to reduce bobby calf numbers, which were halved this year.”

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