Sexed semen provides a viable and profitable option for many farmers, accelerated genetic improvement and “relative” conception rates, “almost on par” with conventional semen.
That is according to Enda Dooley, laboratory manager at Dovea Genetics, who featured as part of the AI company’s autumn breeding webinar earlier this week.
During the virtual session, he told viewers that the firm carries a selection of bulls with the new SexedUltra technique.
Its availability arises from its commitment, since November 2021, to produce sex-sorted semen at Sexing Technologies’ first semen-sorting lab in Ireland, which is based at Teagasc’s Moorepark Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre in County Cork.
Demand outstripping supply
According to Sexing Technologies, SexedULTRA 4M® semen is the “global gold standard” in sex-sorted semen, being more than 90% gender accurate and achieving conception rates comparable to conventional semen.
Commenting on the growth of the sexed semen market in Ireland, Dooley revealed:
“We have come a long way with sexed semen. The huge advantage to us as a company is having the machine in Ireland, having arrived in Moorepark last year.”
“We started in November last year and worked right up to March, producing as much as possible but did not have enough to meet the demand.”
According to Dooley, there has been a “huge” uptake amongst its client base, especially from dairy farmers, but interest from the suckler sector is “also growing”.
“This year, we know that beef is going to grow a lot more, so we have between 12-14 bulls across a range of breeds taken this year for the 2023 market.”
“We find that sexed semen is going to grow, but we do not know where it is going to stop.”
Differences between sexed and conventional semen
During the webinar, he explained that the primary difference between sexed and conventional semen is sperm count per straw/unit.
He outlined that a conventional straw contains between 15-20 million sperms, whereas sexed semen straws, with this particular technology, has four million sperms per unit.
He then outlined the step-by-step process involved in producing sexed semen, from collection to marketing:
“We collect the bull’s semen here, and it is put in a special refrigerator and transferred down to Moorepark in the mornings, afternoons and evenings.”
“We give them raw semen and have a backup bull. It is a slow process, as each sperm, one by one, X (female) and Y (male), goes down through magnets.”
“The X goes to the left, the Y goes to the right and straight down through the middle are any deformed or dead sperms.”
“Beforehand, we request if we want the semen back as male or female, and mostly, it would be coming back as female, but we get some of the beef bulls back as males.”
“They are an independent company, so they give it back to us in straws, and we advertise semen for sale then,” he explained.
Currently, the firm has a growing range of sexed semen straws of breeds, Limousin, Simmental, Belgian Blue, and Angus.
But, as he outlined, the advantage of having the machine in Ireland is that Dovea Genetics can pick any bull for sexed semen.
“The market is growing a lot, and we get a lot of farmers enquiring in advance to see what stocks we have.”
“We would have told to put their orders in time, so we know where we stand with stocks and what bulls are going to be popular,” he added.
Based on customer feedback, conception results for sexed semen generally fall between 40-50%, and some are as high as 66%.
He stressed that sexed semen has to be handled carefully given its fragility, and the following protocol must be adhered to:
Sexed straw handling:
- Organise sexed straws into one goblet;
- Thaw a max of two sexed semen straws at a time;
- Thaw straws at 35-37 degrees Celcisus for 45 seconds;
- Load straws into pre-warmed AI guns and keep warm;
- Deposit semen in uterine body;
- Complete inseminations within 5 minutes;
- Delays can impact semen quality;
- Dovea Genetics advocates AM/PM rule.