Tuesday, December 5, 2023

CRV sexed semen lab raring to go

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Staff ready for season after 18 months’ training by international experts.
Genetics can help South Island dairy farmers produce more from less as dry summers persist.
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This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

The CRV sexed semen team are more than ready for the upcoming autumn-calving mating, having completed training as their new lab geared up for mating last spring – and having carried out one lot of mating.

Experts from Brazil, India and the United States put the team at CRV’s new sexed semen lab through rigorous training over an 18-month period as they prepared to deliver high quality sexed semen to dairy farmers. 

CRV has collaborated with Genus IntelliGen Technologies to bring innovative sexed semen technology to New Zealand. The technology is housed within a purpose-built laboratory at CRV’s Bellevue production and logistics facility in the Waikato. 

Commissioned in February 2022, the new facility provides CRV with the capacity to produce sexed semen on a daily basis, tripling its production capacity as more dairy farmers look to accelerate the genetic gains and reduce bobby calf numbers.

The new facility is equipped with IntelliGen Technology, the only commercial laser-ablation semen sexing technology available in key global markets. The technology has successfully inseminated millions of cattle around the world. 

Genus Laboratory manager Amanda Nonato from Brazil spent six months in NZ facilitating the training. She said the lab is well resourced with NZ technicians qualified in the intricate sexed semen production process. 

“Our team here in New Zealand is employed by Genus to process semen from a selection of CRV’s best New Zealand bulls,” Nonato said.

“The entire team has been specially trained by our international experts in the delicate process to produce the very best sexed semen from these bulls using Genus’s world-leading technology.”

IntelliGen Technology’s process for developing sexed bovine genetics is gentler on the sperm cells than traditional sexed semen processes.

The technology does not subject semen cells to the high pressures, electric currents and shear forces that are used in the traditional sexed semen technology, which reduces stress on the cells as they are processed.

Nonato said the training process has involved Genus’ experienced trainers working closely alongside trainees, observing their technique, and giving them feedback to ensure they consistently produce a high-quality product. 

“The IntelliGen sexing process is unique and proprietary. I’m very happy and confident with everything that we have accomplished here in New Zealand. The team is already producing some top-quality results and we will continue to work with them and train any additional new hires. 

“New Zealand dairy farmers can maximise their herds’ genetic gain through using CRV sexed semen as we are offering our very best bulls that are leading in health and efficiency.” 

CRV operations manager Andy Medley said it was challenging to set up the new lab with NZ’s borders closed due to covid-19. However, everything is now in place and the lab is already operating 24 hours a day, five days a week.

Medley said NZ farmers’ demand for sexed semen continues to grow year by year, and “the innovative technology we are using at Bellevue means we can provide farmers with a high-quality sexed product to help them maximise their profitability and achieve genetic gains faster and in a more efficient way”.

How does the technology work?

• The semen is put through a preliminary quality control process to make sure it is viable and motile.

• The cells are stained and loaded onto the technology platform where the sex skew in the sample is identified. 

• A sperm cell containing female DNA is heavier and denser than that with male DNA. Cells pass by a detection laser and software detects the difference in DNA content. 

• The system identifies the sought-after female cells and uses another laser to inactivate the unwanted cells. The desired cells and the inactivated cells are combined and included in the straw. Cells are prepared with the right buffers for freezing and packaged at the right concentration. 

• The straws are frozen. Each batch must pass stringent quality control criteria and is then ready for transport to customers on farm.

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