Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

NCBC to halt sales of its sexed semen

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC) has decided to discontinue selling its sexed semen following disappointing results.

Marketed as Female Advantage, the product was designed to deliver higher percentages of female calves relative to male calves for dairy farmers. Around 100,000 doses of the sexed semen were bought by farmers last year at a premium of €6/straw when they were told that the product would deliver 7pc more female calves than standard semen.

The Farming Independent can reveal that an independent study shows that, at best, the Advantage semen only resulted in 2.8pc more female calves than the average figures for the Holstein Friesian population.

However, this figure is the subject of some debate between the US-based firm that developed the technology and Irish geneticists. The key issue surrounds the baseline figure for the heifer to bull ratio in the national dairy herd. While it was traditionally believed to have been a 49:51 split between heifer and bull calves, Arex Life Sciences is pushing to have a baseline figure of closer to 47:53 used.

If this lower figure is used, the results of the study of 10,000 calvings by cows in-calf to the Female Advantage semen are believed to have shown a 2.8pc increase in female calves to 49.8pc. However, if the standard baseline of a 49:51 split is used, the Advantage Semen may have delivered less than 1pc extra heifer calves.

Sources close to the research said that the nature of the study was making it difficult to provide conclusive results, since many factors, including seasonality and huge variances from one bull to the next, could influence the female to male ratio at farm level.

A number of farmers who experienced poor results have sought compensation from both Progressive Genetics and Munster AI.

According to a source close to the companies, this has been done on a case-by-case basis, with farmers receiving compensation in the form of complimentary semen doses.

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NCBC boss Bernard Eivers refused to comment on the issue, other than to say that "this matter has been, and is being, dealt with". No information regarding the performance of each bull involved has been revealed.

Indo Farming