Real buzz with heifer after heifer arriving from sexed semen trial – ICBF boss

Calves are starting to hit the ground in herds that participated in last year’s sexed semen trial and, according to ICBF CEO Sean Coughlan, there is a real buzz out there with heifer after heifer arriving.

Coughlan, who was speaking at a recent meeting of the Irish Holstein Friesian Association Cork Club, said  the ICBF was very pleased with the sexed frozen results in general.

In his presentation, he noted a wide range of views at farm level on the trial. However there is a strong view emerging that ongoing research is needed and one year is not enough to assess the potential of the technology.

He cited the trial has thrown up real challenges for AI companies in terms of their business. Particularly due to less dairy semen being needed and the potential for low conception rates with sexed semen.

Coughlan highlighted that the trail clearly outlined that the technology won’t be suitable for everyone. As strong technical performance at farm level is a pre-requisite of success using sexed semen.

Coughlan confirmed to attendees at the meeting that there won’t be a lab in Ireland this spring, however he said there will be a stock of trial semen from last year and from other sources. He outlined that the ICBF is looking to set up a longer-term arrangement in conjunction with AI companies, Teagasc Research and the wider agri-industry from 2015 onwards.

The trial, which was established to access the potential of sexed semen in Ireland for dairy cows and heifers, was carried out in spring 2013. It involved industry partnerships and funding. In total 15,000 inseminations were carried out on 392 farm’s by 100 AI technicians.

He outlined that results so far indicate that frozen-thawed sexed semen has performed far better than expected, with a drop of only 7 per cent (49 per cent vs 42 per cent) in conception rates compared with conventional semen.

However results from fresh sexed semen were disappointing though, with conception rates around 12-15 per cent lower than those achieved with conventional semen.

He noted results were improved the longer the cows were after calving at insemination and the greater the animal’s body condition score.