Plans are advancing to roll out a massive 15,000 cow trial of the latest sexed semen technology next spring.
The proposed project was outlined to industry stakeholders at an ICBF board meeting last week. The trial aims to replicate a similar trial that was conducted in New Zealand last year.
It found that conception rates for fresh sexed semen was on par with that of conventional non-sexed semen.
The proposal would see Teagasc's Stephen Butler co-ordinating the research analysis on hundreds of individual dairy and beef herds. It is hoped that 16,000 doses of dairy semen and 8,000 doses of beef semen would be used in the research.
While there have been a number of attempts by AI companies to develop a market for sexed semen here in the past, most failed due to poor conception rates experienced with the technology at farm level.
However, ICBF geneticist Andrew Cromie says that new technologies being developed by companies such as the US-based Sexing Technologies have the potential to solve these poor conception-rate issues.
Farmers have long anticipated a sexing technology that would allow them to produce female-only calves from dairy sires and male-only from their beef sires. If successful, the technology offers a solution to the problem of poor conformation bull calves from the dairy herd.
Meetings are ongoing with dairy and meat industry processors and the Department of Agriculture in an effort to source approximately €800,000 of funding to allow the project to proceed.
Farmers will be expected to contribute to the cost of the project too through the purchase of up to 25,000 AI doses allocated to the project. However, Mr Cromie hopes that the straws will be priced at a similar level to conventional non-sexed semen.
"The idea is that half of all the straws supplied would be sexed. The other half would be standard but farmers would not know which was which in order for us to generate good data," he explained.
"The idea is that we get to compare fresh versus frozen, beef versus dairy, heifers versus cows and male semen versus female semen, so that we've a comprehensive trial that answers all the questions.
"Either we sit back and let farmers get burnt experimenting with the technology for the next four or five years or we run a trial that puts all the issues and results in the public domain.
"It would be operated in much the same way that the GeneIreland programme is being operated where farmers sign up with ICBF," said Mr Cromie.