Farm Ireland

Friday 20 July 2018

Dairy farmers bid to slash AI costs

Farmers are looking to reduce AI costs.
Farmers are looking to reduce AI costs.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Dairy farmers are examining ways to slash AI costs this spring, with some looking to maximise cashflow early next year by opting for more beef bull semen.

However, farmers have been urged to ensure they do not impact long-term on herd replacements to deliver short-term cashflow gain.

Don Crowley, a Teagasc dairy advisor in Clonakilty, said it appears from discussions amongst dairy farmers that Friesian AI use may be reduced this year.

He pointed out farmers were discussing cutting their AI costs this spring by cutting their AI usage to three to four weeks, rather than six weeks and then mopping up with stock bulls.

"You would want your bull fertility tested in that case as it is a gamble," said Mr Crowley.

He said farmers were discussing moving towards more beef AI to "top up their income", with the mart calf prices for beef crosses proving tempting.

"In terms of longer-term gain, in high EBI herds it is false economy going beef as February and March born Friesian heifer calves off AI sires sell at a significant premium. If deciding to cut back on AI, bull power is required which will mean purchasing extra bulls in a tight year," the Teagasc advisor said.

Farmers have also been considering using more test bulls from the ICBF's Gene Ireland catalogues to access discounted rates. "The straws sell for around €8.50 compared with €18-25 for the usual commercial straws," he said.

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Doreen Corridan from Munster AI cautioned farmers to ensure they avoid any long-term impact for short-term gain. She said that even if a herd is not expanding it still needs around 18pc of replacements each year.

Beef sires

"If you look nationally there isn't a major surplus of replacement heifers out there. There is only about 50 to 60pc of those replacement heifers out of high EBI AI sires," she said. "Each farmer needs to make sure they have adequate amounts of replacements."

She said farmers that opted for easier calving and shorter gestation beef sires in AI were seeing the "value" of the calves in the mart, with Hereford inseminations trebling in Munster in recent years.

"It is getting to the time of the year when the cashflow is short, but you don't want short-term gain either if it is costing long-term. It is a balance between adequate replacements and making sure you have enough bull power to get high fertility." She said a farmer can then opt to maximise the remainder of the calves from the dairy herd, such as using Beef AI.

She pointed out the message from a recent Teagasc/Kerry Agribusiness farm walk was 50pc of the heifers used as replacements are bred from stock bulls. However, a €60 difference in EBI exists between calves of stock bulls and AI, which translated into €120 a cow.

John Lynch, beef programme manager with Dovea Genetics, said that as some dairy farms move towards capacity they will concentrate on dairy AI for replacements. However, he said beef AI "will become a massive market" and they have recorded a year on year growth in beef AI over the last five years.

He said farmers were firstly opting for easy calving, gestation length was their second consideration and calf value was the third.

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