Beef from dairy herds is becoming a vital source of income for dairy units, which makes the development of male beef sexed semen an exciting step forward.
Sexed male beef semen, that can achieve conception rates which match those of conventional, could be a ‘game-changer’ for dairy farmers looking to make the most of everything produced on-farm.
In recent months, many farmers have been embracing advances in semen sexing technology which have enabled the development of SexedULTRA 4M.
With double the number of semen cells per straw, 4M has put an end to the reduced conception rates often reported from using traditional sexed products. Today, farmers can expect conception rates much closer to those of conventional.
Following on from the success of female dairy SexedULTRA 4M, Cogent has transferred the technology over to male sexed beef semen; SexedULTRA 4M Beef.
This has improved the efficacy of Cogent’s sexed beef product, which is the only one of its kind produced in the UK, says the company.
This investment reflects a marked industry-wide shift in attitude towards beef from the dairy herd. In the past, beef was largely viewed as a by-product of dairying, with little thought given to the type of beef sires used.
However, today the development of integrated supply chains mean beef from dairy units is becoming an increasingly important part of farm businesses. Growing dairy market volatility also means income from dairy beef is an increasingly valuable source of income.
With this in mind, Cogent’s beef programme manager Boomer Birch believes the development of male sexed semen is a ‘game-changer’.
He says: “This is massive. I think it is a huge step forward. The industry is growing massively in terms of integration. Within this, male animals – whether these are entire bulls or steers – are more efficient to finish, either extensively or intensively, than heifers. It makes the beef supply chain more efficient.”
By targeted use of male beef sexed semen, farmers can reduce the number of female beef calves produced, thus increasing their market value and overall farm returns.
Mr Birch says: “The extra value you get from a male beef calf, whether that is native or continental, is significant. Probably, on average, a £100 difference by producing a male beef calf, rather than a female. But it can be as much as £250, depending on age and breed.”
Improved conception rates from SexedULTRA 4M Beef also make the added cost of the product justifiable.
Mr Birch believes breeding strategies which revolve around targeted use of sexed female dairy semen and male sexed beef semen are set to rapidly become ‘the norm of the future’.
This stems around understanding the genetic value of females in the herd. He advises genomically testing all heifers and first and second lactation animals. This information can then be used to make breeding decisions (see graphic).
As with all sexed semen products, to get the best conception rates it is best to only serve high fertile animals. All the basics of good breeding management also apply, such as:
Cogent currently offers a variety of different breeds in SexedULTRA 4M Beef, including Hereford, Simmental, Limousin, Aberdeen-Angus and British Blue.
Only proven beef bulls from Cogent’s long-running sire-testing programme, Beef Visions, will be sexed.
Cogent has been investing in its beef sire selection programme to identify quality beef bulls that specifically meet the needs of dairy farmers.
This has included the development of the financial index, Cogent Beef Impact. This is made up of Ease of Management Impact (£EMI) and Market Value Impact (£MVI):
Farmers can then select sires based on their specific requirements. All Beef Impact bulls have these figures behind them and only the most suitable bulls will be sexed.
Targeted use of male sexed beef semen has helped the Easom family maximise the value of their calf crop at Broom House Farm, Alfreton.
Having traditionally finished all Holstein bull calves produced from their black and white herd, they decided to use SexedULTRA 4M British Blue semen on the lowest genetic merit females.
By doing so, they have increased the value of the entire beef rearing unit.
David Easom says: “The higher cost of semen is justified on the beef unit, because we have found a British Blue bull at 12 months achieves £250 more than a Holstein bull at the same age.
“We have not changed how we rear animals, we have just changed the breed we use.”