‘Conception rates from sexed semen will soon be as good as conventional’

Sexed semen is expected to match the conception rates of conventional semen in the near future according to a leading Teagasc researcher.

Dr Stephen Butler, a Teagasc reproduction expert, predicts that it is only a matter of time before sexed semen reaches 100% of the conception rates of conventional semen.

“Conception rates of 87% have been achieved on trials carried out in Ireland but recent New Zealand research using fresh semen has reached 94% of conventional semen.

“I can’t exactly say when it will happen but it could happen within the next 10 years.”

The uptake of sexed semen as a product has been lower than expected, cited Butler.

He admitted that the slow uptake of this product was due to the outstanding question over fertility and it is still only recommended for use on maiden heifers and highly fertile dairy cows.

Once this question has been answered he expects widespread use of sexed semen on Irish farms.

Cost must also be considered with sexed semen (€38) costing more than twice as much as conventional (€18), but Teagasc research indicates that the higher value beef calves produced will exceed any additional costs.

According to Teagasc, sexed semen usage will allow farmers to place selection pressure on the cow, there is currently very little selection pressure placed on females, if a high fertility product was available farmers could chose to eliminate a large proportion of cows as a source of replacements.

This would shorten the generation interval and allow for greater genetic gains according to Teagasc and would also allow dairy farmers to increase the value of the beef calf they produced.

“Until the question mark over fertility is removed sexed semen will not be appropriate to every farmer.

“Sexed semen is not unique to Ireland, a high fertility product is wanted around the world.”