Any steps towards establishing a sexed semen laboratory in Ireland is a matter for the AI industry, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The spokesperson also stated that the department is “available to discuss any proposal with the industry”.

This was in response to queries in which AgriLand put to the Department of Agriculture, regarding a sexed semen lab in Ireland and what – or if – the department are doing to address this.

Currently, in order for semen to be sexed, the bull must be flown over to the UK – which is an expensive process.

This is having a knock-on effect on the availability of sexed semen in Ireland, leading to farmer frustration. This is in particular with sexed semen mooted as a possible long-term solution to the dilemma of what to do with male dairy calves.

Meanwhile, in the UK, sexed semen now accounts for almost one in three inseminations, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

On the topic on what the department is doing to address the influx of dairy calves coming from the expanding dairy industry, the spokesperson said:

“The department has been working with all stakeholders to identify ways of absorbing the additional number of calves born in the national dairy herd in an economical, sustainable and appropriate manner, including many research projects and industry programmes.

“Aside from the exploration of sexed semen technology, there are a range of on-going initiatives underway that seek to increase market outlets for dairy calves.”

These, the spokesperson said, include:
  • Creating greater linkages between the dairy industry and the beef industry;
  • The increased use of beef-breed bulls in dairy herds;
  • The development of a dairy-beef breeding index to support dairy farmers in breeding better beef type calves;
  • Initiatives to support and encourage beef farmers to rear calves from dairy herds.