Bull calf price slump sparks dairy shift to sexed semen
Beef sire usage also set to rise as drive begins to reduce number of low-value male dairy calves
A shift to sexed semen and increased use of beef sires by milk suppliers is forecast for the upcoming breeding season as the dairy sector tackles the problem of poor demand for bull calves.
AI companies report strong dairy farmer interest in sexed semen, while Teagasc confirmed that usage of Jersey genetics in its research herds will be subject to greater controls.
The moves come as dairy farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell bull calves this spring as a result of weak beef farmer buying, and shipping restrictions that have curtailed calf exports.
Both Ger Ryan of Dovea, and Tom Baker of Eurogene-LIC said dairy farmer enquiries on sexed semen were well up this year.
"We are seeing more interest than normal in sexed semen due to low-value male dairy calf prices in 2019. The advice would be for anyone interested to order it early because of demand," said Mr Ryan.
Mr Baker pointed out that farmers were just starting to assess their options for the breeding season but that sexed semen was being increasingly considered.
"We have had an awful lot of calls for sexed semen. It is too early to say how many of the enquiries will result in sales, but it's an indication of how farmers are thinking," he said.
Kerry-based dairy consultant, Mary Kinston, agreed that sexed semen usage would undoubtedly increase this year, but she stressed that a menu of options are open to farmers and that a combination of various approaches was best.