Reduce costs and increase your profit by using sexed semen

Published 16 July 19

Reduce costs and increase your profit by using sexed semen

Using sexed semen in your dairy herd can help reduce rearing costs and increase the potential profit is the advice from AHDB.

By selectively using sexed semen to breed replacement heifers from your best cows, you can reduce rearing costs by only rearing the heifers you need.

Steve West, AHDB Dairy Knowledge Exchange Manager, said: “The performance of sexed semen relative to conventional has improved markedly in the last few years which makes using it a more attractive option for Dairy farmers. Sexed semen increases the likelihood of having a heifer calf to over 90%.

“In addition to using sexed semen on your best cows, inseminating the rest of your herd with high-quality beef sires will produce a calf that the beef market requires which will result in even greater profit.”

Farmer Jack Munday runs a 250-cow autumn calved herd and switched to using a mixture of sexed and beef semen on his herd: “Sexed semen is more expensive than conventional semen but beef semen is a bit cheaper, so overall, we were quite surprised that it didn’t cost as much as we thought.

“Our conception rates also remained at a good level, I am achieving 61% with conventional semen and 57% with sexed. Our six-week in calf rate is usually 71% and I am expecting somewhere close to 76%.

 “It is important to spend time choosing which cows are suitable. In our herd, cows must have had no instances of mastitis during the previous lactation, must have got in calf first time and be due to calve at the start of the calving window and she must suit our system.”

AHDB has an online semen usage calculator that can help you run different semen usage scenarios for your farm and pick the one that suits you situation.

Steve explains: The calculator helps farmers take into account the market value of calves, conception rates and TB losses to create a realistic illustration for different scenarios. It even takes into account bull costs for farms using natural service.

The semen usage calculator can be found at ahdb.org.uk/semen-usage-calculator

As well as the semen usage calculator, herds that milk record can identify the best heifers to breed from by using the AHDB Herd Genetic Report. This allows you to not only establish which are your most productive cows genetically, it also helps you to select those that have positive fertility traits to ensure the best chance of conception to sexed semen.

“For block calvers, we know that animals selected for sexed semen service are based on practical reasons like detection of heats early in the service window. But to improve your future success, it is important to also consider the animals’ genetic ability. Improved genetics for the fertility index will aid to maintain a tight calving block. The Herd Genetic Report is a useful identifier of which animals you should plan to breed to sexed semen, which can be done long before you reach the service window. In addition, the inbreeding checker can also help you ensure you maintain vigour” adds Fern Pearston (AHDB Animal Genetics Manager).

AHDB is running a campaign to highlight the benefits of sexed semen. Join the conversation on twitter by using the #Breed4Better.

Find out more, explore our Breed4Better Podcast and other resources by visiting www.ahdb.org.uk/breed4better