The use of sexed semen is likely to increase further in Ireland with the recent opening of a sexed semen sorting laboratory at Teagasc’s Moorepark Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre.
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Source: Agriland

This is one of the findings of a study conducted by the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway.

And with improved animal breeding featuring as a key metric in the recently published Climate Action Plan – where agriculture will have to cut its emissions by between 22%-30% by 2030 – these results are timely.

Here, we take a look at that survey and what it uncovered about farmers’ breeding strategies.

Breeding strategies

As part of the NUI Galway survey, dairy farmers were asked about their breeding strategies.

This survey followed on from an earlier one carried out in 2020, which meant that tracking the farmers’ responses over a known period of time was possible. Altogether, over 700 dairy farmers participated in the surveys.

Speaking to Agriland, NUI Galway lecturer, Dr. Doris Laepple explained that interest in sexed semen by farmers has increased over the last two years.

Sexed semen

Commenting on the results of the survey regarding farmers’ attitudes towards sexed semen, Dr. Laepple said that 80% of dairy farmers who are currently using sexed semen plan to use more of it next year.

“And 30% of surveyed dairy farmers, who are currently not using sexed semen, said they plan to use it in the near future,” she added.

In 2020, less than 20% of surveyed dairy farmers indicated that they used sexed semen in their 2019 breeding season. 

“This figure has increased to 70% of surveyed dairy farmers in 2021,” she said.

“But, when digging a little deeper into the data, less than 4% of farmers used sexed semen on all of their dairy cows and heifers.

“The vast majority of surveyed dairy farmers revealed that they use sexed semen on selected heifers and dairy cows only.”

Concerns about low conception rates remain the main stumbling block to not using sexed semen, followed by costs and lower genetic quality of available bulls, Dr. Laepple said.

“At least the latter concern should be addressed by the new Irish sexed semen sorting lab,” she said.

Dairy beef

In relation to the dairy beef breeding result from the survey, the results showed that the Dairy Beef Index (DBI) has also increased in popularity over the last couple of years.

With almost half (45%) of surveyed dairy farmers indicating that they considered the DBI in their breeding decisions in 2019.

“This figure increased to three quarters in 2021. While this sounds like good news, the data suggests otherwise,” Dr. Laepple said.

“In the 2019 breeding seasons, surveyed dairy farmers indicated that 30% of their calf crop was sired by a beef breed. This figure dropped to just over 20% in 2021, the study found.

“When asked about whether dairy farmers are responsible for producing animals for the beef sector, almost half (45%) of surveyed dairy farmers agreed with this statement in 2021.

“But, less than one third of surveyed dairy farmers felt this was the case when asked at the beginning of 2020.

“NUI Galway would like to thank all farmers who participated in the study and we would also like to apologise for the delay in sending gift vouchers to participants – which was impacted by a cyberattack at NUI Galway,” Dr. Laepple said.

Jerry Dakin’s cows have produced milk that helped feed families across the state for decades. Now, the longtime Manatee County dairyman has been recognized as Florida’s Farmer of the Year.

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