Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Teagasc to lead semen trial

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Details are expected to be finalised today on one of the largest semen trials ever under-taken in Ireland.

Teagasc researchers Stephen Butler and Ian Hutchinson are heading up a €1m project with ICBF and US-based Sexing Technologies to establish the viability of using fresh-sexed semen.

More than 26,000 units of semen will be analysed for the trial, which is expected to be rolled out to more than 300 dairy herds and 100 beef herds from April 20.

Farmers will receive letters in the post this week outlining the conditions for participating in the trial.

It aims to replicate a similar trial conducted in New Zealand in 2011.

It found that conception rates for fresh-sexed semen were on par with that of conventional non-sexed semen.

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.

Interested farmers will be required to sign up with ICBF in the same way that herds sign up for the GeneIreland programme.

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There will be no entry fee, but straws will cost €30 each for first services. This charge includes the cost of an AI technician.

The nature of the fresh semen will mean that participating farms will be limited to the Munster and south Leinster region.

Semen will be collected from participating bulls on a daily basis. It will be couriered to a temporary lab operated by Sexing Technologies three times a day, where it will be sexed.

It will then be delivered to AI technician pick-up points before being used on farm.

The trial will compare five different types of semen – frozen sexed and non-sexed, fresh sexed and non-sexed, and finally fresh sexed – with a higher sperm count per straw.

This latter sub-set is designed to establish the minimum number of fresh-sexed sperm required per dose to achieve satisfactory results.

This, in turn, could help to minimise the cost per dose if it was to be made commercially available.

In order to prevent the results being skewed, farmers will not be informed as to whether the straws are sexed or not at the time of insemination.

There will be approximately 22,000 doses from high EBI Holstein Friesian bulls, and 4,400 doses of pedigree beef breeds such as Charolais, Limousin, Simmental, Hereford and possibly some Belgian Blue.

There will also be a number of male sexed semen doses from an easy calving Aberdeen Angus bull laid on for use on the dairy herd.

Irish Independent

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