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23 Mar 2023

How sexed semen can benefit your dairy herd

By its very nature, choosing to use sexed semen in your dairy herd gives you a 90% chance of a heifer calf. But what should farmers look out for when going down this path?

Too many bull calves are the unwanted by-products of any dairy herd, costing you money as a farmer in terms of lost production with fewer replacement heifers born. For that reason, more dairy farmers are opting to use sexed semen as more heifers are required.

VikingJersey sexed semen

To help farmers better understand the advantages of using sexed semen, Peter Larson, Senior Breeding Manager for VikingJersey, explains the process in more detail. Using sexed semen gives farmers better opportunity to improve the genetics in their herds. 2022 proved to be yet another record year of sales worldwide.

But back in the early stages when the science was first developed, some trust issues emerged. Low conception rates were apparent when using sexed semen.

“Yes, there were issues of low conception rates in the early stages but this has improved over the years. Today we can expect conception rates of 90% with sexed semen,” Peter Larson says.

VikingJersey sexed semen

Getting clear on your breeding goals

Some farmers have been put off using sexed semen due to the cost which can be double the amount of conventional semen.

Peter Larson said: “There are cases when farmers should not use sexed semen and that is when the fertility of the herd is poor. In average to good reproduction herds using sexed semen is more efficient. This extra cost is outweighed by producing a heifer calf, and with all the extra benefits sexed semen can have in genetic progression.”

If you are looking to get the maximum benefit from using sexed semen, you should first consider what the main goals of your herd should be.

Using sexed semen on the best females in the herd allows farmers to develop their cows genetics faster in terms of dairy production. But also using good beef semen that can produce a bull calf with more value.

This is more applicable to Jersey cow farmers, as Peter Larson explains.

“In 2020, 70 percent of the semen sold by VikingJersey was sexed semen. Farmers are quickly realising the potential of sexed semen on Jersey cows as the bull calves produced from the breed are normally of low value. Today we can use sexed semen on Jersey cows to breed a more valuable calf whether it is a Jersey heifer or indeed a calf from a beef sire.”

VikingJersey sexed semen

Picking the best bull to match your herd

So how do you know which are their best cows to use sexed semen on?

Peter Larson suggests that farmers should pick out the cows with the highest breeding values or, if this data is not available to use genomic testing on cows to find the best ones.

When it comes to picking the bull for sexed semen the choice is the same as when picking one for conventional semen.

“Pick a bull that offers the best traits you need to reach the goals of your herd,” says Peter Larson.

He predicts that the demand of sexed semen will escalate even further in the near future, particularly on Jersey farms, as farmers experience the true benefits of what the genetics technology can offer.

Read more about sexed semen
VikingJersey sexed semen

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