Sexed semen: A guide for dairy farmers
“The way I see it is that the farmers who should be using sexed semen are not using it. These are the farmers with the superior fertility statues.”
“On the other hand, some farmers that are using it are probably farmers that are not at where they need to be in terms of fertility.”
Those are the main messages Shane Leane, technical sales manager at Progressive Genetics, conveyed during a Teagasc webinar on dairy breeding.
During the virtual session, he highlighted the importance of having a strategy for sexed semen in dairy herds.
In doing so, he urged farmers to understand the fertility status of their herd, including their six-week calving rate, submission rates and conception rates, before introducing sexed semen to their breeding programmes.
He pointed to research which indicates a 10% difference in conception rates between conventional and sexed semen, the latter of which is circa 50%.
Leane also advised farmers to be aware of economic losses in 6-week calving rates and the fact that this is a higher cost product.
He told attendees: “If you are using sexed semen, my advice is to use on heifers that are of superior genetics, are well-gown, free from disease and have an ideal BCS.”
“They are your primary animals for sexed semen, and that is where we are seeing really good results once this criterion is in place and animals are cycling, and BCS is correct, ect. That is where we are seeing good success stories with sexed semen.”
“If you want to use it on cows, my advice would be to use it along with conventional dairy and then follow the criteria protocol,” he explained.
What cows should you use sexed semen on?
The criteria protocol he provided is as follows:
- Superior fertility sub-index;
- Calved > 60 days;
- Expressed a “strong” oestrus cycle (if not two);
- No metabolic (grass tetany, milk fever, ect) or calving issues that may hinder conception rates;
- Ideal BCS (Body Condition Score) of >3.0.
Timing of AI
He outlined that one of the critical findings arising from research is the timing of AI. The state agency advises farmers using sexed semen on their herds to:
- AI 14 to 20 hours after heat onset (first standing mount);
- Practice the AM/PM rule if possible;
- If you are utilising once-a-day AI, use conventional semen if the time of AI is less than 14 hours after the onset of heat to get optimum results.
Concluding Leane said: “Overall, my advice would be to assess your herd’s fertility status to see where it lies in terms of your 6-week calving rate.”
“If you have less than an 80% 6-week calving rate, you would really want to question the use of sexed semen. Albeit, you are over that, you may proceed.”
“I would focus on heifers if I have not used sexed semen before. Keep your toe in the water and see how your results go. That will give you the confidence to go forward the year after.”
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