Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Project will assess bulls for sexed semen potential

Solpoll 1 Handsome, the most widely used Hereford bull on dairy cows
Solpoll 1 Handsome, the most widely used Hereford bull on dairy cows
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A fertile bull project is in the pipeline to examine how certain animals perform for sexed semen.

The revolutionary technology has been highlighted as one of the potential answers to the number of Jersey bull calves on the ground with the growing dairy herd.

However, a number of farmers at Moorepark '17 stated that cost and success rates were proving a deterrent.

A large Irish field trial in 2013 showed that sexed semen resulted in conception rates that were around 87pc of the rates achieved with conventional semen.

However, Teagasc maintain that in the near future it is likely that sexed semen will be capable of achieving conception rates that are similar to conventional semen.

"With the 2013 trial we found that some bulls that were great normally didn't perform as well when we sexed them. This obviously had a negative effect on farmers. What we want to do now is use lab tests to identify poor ejaculates," said Teagasc's Shauna Holden.

"We know for a fact that some bulls don't freeze well and we don't freeze them. They would be used fresh and it is the same with sexing."

Ms Holden said the trial will be lab based. "If it works in the lab I'd love to see it go out to a field trial," she said, adding if the industry is going to progress with sexed semen then difficulties will need to be ironed out. "It is a great technology."

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"I think the interest is there but I think people are a little afraid to take it up.

"Talking to farmers there are mixed views - some think it is great and they are using it the whole time, others don't like it," she said, adding cost was a key factor with straws more expensive.


"The majority of that cost is actually transporting the animals, if we had a sexed semen lab in Ireland it would reduce the cost."

A simulation computer study to determine the effects of sexed semen on replacement heifer numbers and the rate of herd expansion from 100 cows up to 300 was examined.

It followed four different approaches but pinpointed that combining sexed semen use with conventional beef semen would provide alternative strategies for expanding farmers. It resulted in slower growth in heifer numbers but it also had the potential to generate additional income from beef calves.

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