There are advantages and disadvantages to every breeding tool and each has a dollar impact. When it comes to sexed semen you have to know what the benefits will be to your particular breeding and management programs. Currently, sexed semen is seeing a resurgence of use six years after its inception in 2006. Several factors are contributing to these rising numbers, not the least of which is the fact that there is a growing body of information and data on how to use it and the results that can be achieved.
WHAT`S IN IT FOR YOU?
First, let`s take a look at the advantages. At the end of the day, the tools you use must help you to reach your personal goals. If growing the size and quality of your dairy herd is a definite priority then using sexed semen allows you to raise more quality heifers which is a definitely a primary key to the success of your enterprise. There are four ways that sexed semen directly impacts this area of your program:
- More heifer calves
- Easier calvings more often
- First calf heifers that get off to a good start after easy calving.
- First calf heifers that calve at an earlier age and begin producing and making money sooner.
These positive outcomes alone make sexed semen a viable choice. Of course, everything runs on the financial impact. With sexed semen there is less dependence on outside sources for replacement heifers, thus saving that expense. Because you are not bringing in animals from other herds, the health and disease risks and resulting expenses that could be incurred are reduced.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS!
There are specific advantages to choosing sexed female semen or sexed male semen.
SEXED FEMALE SEMEN
On the female side five positives quickly add up:
- More heifer calves per calving
- Easier calvings
- Gives a better start for the heifer as milking cow
- First lactation cows that have heifer calves breed back quicker and come into milk more rapidly because these heifers are calving in with a smaller calf.
- Less stress equals more productivity
- Extended longevity
Each one of these factors could play a significant role in expanding your herd, increasing your milk production and last, but not least, achieving your financial goals.
SEXED MALE SEMEN
Choosing to use sexed male semen can achieve specific goals that you are targeting as well. If you have heifers that you don’t want to have heifers from, you can use male semen from beef bulls. The higher price you can get for the bull calves pays the higher price of the sexed semen. If you’re running an elite breeding program you may be interested in getting bulls from a specific cow family for sale to A.I. This is not done often, because flushing with unsexed semen gives more viable embryos.
Don`t Choose SEXED SEMEN if You`re Not Going to USE IT RIGHT!
Too often the informed decision to use sexed semen is counterproductive because of less than careful herd management and inseminating protocols.
Anything less than quality herd management dramatically reduces your reproductive performance and profitability. It almost goes without saying that you must choose healthy, normally cycling, well-grown, stress free virgin heifers for breeding with sexed semen. The “almost” is used because this step has been overlooked to the detriment of a quality outcome. Once the recipient is identified, you must establish the best possible nutritional program supported by clean housing and stringent health protocols. With these in place, you are ready to use the sexed semen. This too must be done properly to prevent lowering the conception rates below those achieved with conventional semen. The following four steps must be completed with scrupulous attention to detail:
- Semen storage
- Semen handling
- Semen thawing
- Insemination protocols
Taking shortcuts in any of these areas is equivalent to throwing money down the drain. After all, sexed semen already averages 20% lower conception rate compared to conventional semen. To add extra rearing costs or expenses incurred because of poor health and animal management is simply bad business.
Looking Ahead: Availability of Elite Sexed Semen
Currently, producing sexed semen incurs significant time and expense. When this is added to the reduced efficiency in terms of doses per collection, compared to conventional semen, it is understandable that most elite proven sires are not widely available via sexed semen. Having said that, there is a growing trend toward sexed semen being provided for elite genomically tested young sires.
Looking Ahead: Genetic Gains
The use of sexed semen is estimated to increase the herd’s rate of genetic progress by 4.4% per year, compared to no use of sexed semen, which could gradually increase to 7% per year if sexed semen progressively becomes available for all elite A.I. sires, both young and progeny proven.
Looking Ahead: Economic Benefits
We all want to make money. Using sexed semen to breed some or all of the virgin heifers in a herd, regardless of herd size, yields financial advantages once market prices for week-old heifers exceed the price for bull calves by at least $150. The economic benefits increase proportionally as this price difference expands, due to higher heifer value prices.
Looking Ahead: Global Uptake
In the first years since sexed semen was introduced, several factors have come into play which have affected its use. In the beginning in North America there was heavy use. After two or three years it dropped off due to the drop in U.S. milk prices. Recently higher milk prices are causing a resurgence of use. Likewise in Europe, European Union dairy farmers will be seeking more heifers to milk in the quota free market in 2015.
THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE:
Use of sexed semen should be considered by owners of herds with quality heifer rearing, nutritional and general herd management systems. Using sexed semen will allow these breeders to capitalize on the potential genetic and economic gains available from this new technology, which is in the early stages of broad adoption across the industry.
Good, informative article. I’m looking forward to more sexed semen from the emerging polled bulls.
Why do suggest that sexed semen should be used on virgin heifers rather than cows. I guess it’s because of the conception rate difference with milking cows. In our herd in New Zealand all the stock are pasture fed and the virgin heifers are naturally mated by running with a bull rather than AI. So we’re considering sexed semen for milking cows where we have more information on which are the top animals.