During the week, Agriland spoke with a number of artificial insemination (AI) companies to garner some insight into how the breeding season is going so far.

Breeding 2022

The breeding season on many farms appears to be going well, with good grass growth a major factor in this.

This year was the first year of the sexed semen lab in Moorepark, which is also likely to have played a major role on many dairy farms.

Although, overall hand-held serves appear to be down compared to last year, and there are a number of factors that could have contributed to this.

Dovea

To obtain some insight into how the breeding season is going so far for Dovea, Agriland spoke with Niall Duffy from the Co. Tipperary-based AI company.

“We have seen a increase in sales again this year, particularly with farmers that are using do-it-yourself (DIY) AI,” he said.

“There was a big demand for sexed semen this year, with nearly all the sexed straws sold within a few weeks.

“From a farmer’s point of view the season looks to have gone fairly well, with grass coming at the right time and cows under less pressure, with a number of farmers reporting non-return rates of 60% on cows in the first three to four weeks.”

Commenting on what farmers are looking for in bulls this year, Niall said: “Farmers were really focused on percentages this year.

“Bulls that are over 0.15% protein, 0.2% fat and over 30kg of milk solids – with the milk solids really the key one this year for farmers.

“Farmers really had targets set for components in milk and many had limits on the volume of milk they were willing to have.

“That did vary from farm to farm, but the largest cohort of farmers were looking for those high-component sires.”

Popular bulls this year for Dovea were: Glenaboy Ronald, Saintbrigid Frank Joseph, Ardallen Fergus and Browney Barna SRM.

Popular daughter-proven bulls included Jeanjo Art and Killalough Samir.

Continuing, Niall said: “We have also seen that farmers are really interested in the bull dam of genomic sires, with bulls from 4% protein dams really selling well.

“Farmers are less interested in overall economic breeding index (EBI) and [it seems] more important to have the extreme qualities in the components.”

Progressive Genetics

Agriland then spoke with Conor Mulligan, from Progressive Genetics, to hear about the Co. Meath-based AI company’s season so far.

“The biggest thing this year was the increased use of sexed semen on farms,” Conor said.

“We were fairly well prepared for that increase, but it turned out to be higher than we had forecast.

“That increased use of sexed semen results in an increased usage of beef AI earlier in the season.

“Angus and Hereford bulls remain the most popular beef sires with dairy farmers, but we have seen an increase in Belgian and British Blue sires being used – with about 16,000 straws being used.”

Popular Angus bulls used, according to Conor, included Intelagri Matteo ET, HW Farghal T516 and HW Lord Horatio V538.

Intelagri Matteo ET has been the most popular bull with farmers this year once again.

The most popular Hereford bulls for dairy farmers are Fisher 1 Profile and Gouldingpoll 1 Zoro PP.

Regarding dairy sires, Conor said that (IG) Knockenright Chessman has been the most popular sire this year.

“He was our top-selling bull, which is mainly due to his percentages – he is 0.33% for fat and 0.22% for protein.

“Another bull that sold really well was (IG) Amber Trabolgan. He is below €300 on EBI, but he has excellent percentages, which has really made him an excellent seller this year.

“Farmers don’t appear to be as focused on using the highest EBI bulls, this year there was very much a focus on high percentages,” said Conor, echoing the belief of Niall from Dovea.

“The most popular sexed bull in Progressive Genetics was (IG) Stamullen Lunasa SRM,” he added.

Munster Bovine

Agriland also spoke with John Tobin from Munster Bovine to see how the breeding season is going for the Co. Cork based company.

“We have seen a 60% increase in sexed semen usage on farms, but overall sales are slightly down on last year,” John said.

“Some of that can be attributed to excellent conception rates that farmers are reporting, with good grass growth helping.

“We have sold 16,000 extra sexed straws this year and demand for beef straws has really increased, with our second and third-most- popular bulls being beef sires.”

The two most popular beef bulls with Munster Bovine were Intelagri Matteo ET and Intelagri Maverick ET.

John noted that sales in April were down this year, but that sales in May were higher than last year, with many farmers delaying the start of breeding this year.

Again, John noted that farmers seem to be focused on percentages, with the biggest-selling dairy sire being (IG) Doonmanagh Seville.

Seville is a daughter-proven bull, with a 4% protein.

(IG) Knockenright Chessman was also very popular with Munster Bovine, with John noting that if more straws had been available they would have sold them.

Commenting further, John said: “Farmers appeared to being trying to get that balance within their herds – a medium-sized cow that has good percentages.”