When discussing the benefits of sexed semen there is always those who emphasises the extra cost and lower conception rates. However Ciaran O’Shea from ABS Ireland has looked at these costs against the improved farmer income.

According to this data from ABS Ireland, the financial benefits could amount to €6,000 in a 100-cow herd aside from the longer-term herd benefits of having a closed herd.

It said the major advantage for the dairy farmer is the faster increase in genetic merit of the herd, especially if the sexed semen is used on maiden heifers. The genetic gains will not only be on production but will also include type, mastitis, feet and legs, udder conformation and reproduction traits, if the sires used are carefully chosen, according to the company.

O’ Shea is a dairy product specialist with ABS Ireland and an agricultural graduate from University College Dublin. He spoke recently to a group of grassland farmers in Cheshire, England, about the merits of ABS Ireland genetics for their grassland systems.

ABS explained its research. “Sexed semen is likely to be used mainly on the maiden heifers, so beef semen can be used on the reminder of the herd providing the farmer with more valuable beef calves to sell.

“As we have seen this spring dairy type calves are in poor demand and prices have virtually collapsed.

Indeed as the herd improves the farmer may have high genetic merit heifers to sell that could command a premium price, not only for their higher EBI but also for their disease status – coming from a closed herd.”

Having more heifers coming into the herd means fewer difficult calvings, it added.

“Difficult calvings can reduce milk yield in the subsequent lactation, increase days open and the number of inseminations.”

It also noted that with increased numbers of a better class of heifers coming into the herd the farmer may also be in a position to sell off the poorer performing animals.

To fully realise the benefits of sexed semen, O’Shea said paying attention to the choice of sire and highlights some of those which, in his experience, have been most successful.

According to ABS Ireland, this includes:

Cordes-Maid Stonewall – “This Rock Solid Shottle son provides a great balance of EBI, milk, protein, fertility, strength and functional type for the commercial dairy farmer.  He also has excellent scores for SCC,” said O’Shea.

Radney Rock – “This Irish Grassland bull is a health and fertility specialist.  Exceptional scores for daughter fertility (€158) and survivability 5.65 per cent while also being an SCC improver which makes him a great fit for Irish spring calving systems,” he added.

Also of note was Deangate Quentin, he said – “This pure Friesian sire gives high solids with super fertility,” said O’Shea. “He is the No 1 Daughter Fertility bull for all dairy breeds in the UK.  This natural fertility makes him an excellent option for the Irish grassland systems and also to use on Holstein cows to add strength.”

ABS Ireland is also keen to stress that Radney Rock is now sold out and it is working on getting Curra Angel sexed as a replacement.

“This bull is a grassland production, fertility and longevity specialist. He combines 209kgs of milk and 37kgs of milk solids with an exceptional calving interval of -6.83 days. His dam is entering her 4th lactation, grand dam entering her 11th Lactation and great grand dam lasted 10 lactations highlighting the Long Life cows ABS aim to breed,” it added.