A breakthrough in bovine semen sexing is set to bring major changes to the UK cattle breeding industry, meaning the production of unwanted Holstein bull calves could become a thing of the past.
New sorting machines are currently being installed at Cogent’s headquarters near Chester which will allow more ‘potent’ straws to be produced, with the result being the company will shortly be announcing the use of sexed semen for adult milking cows.
Until now sexed semen has been mainly restricted to heifers where far better conception rates are achieved, and some producers have been reluctant to use it on adult cattle for fear of not getting them back in-calf quickly enough.
Cogent’s managing director Mark Roach says the improved semen will comprise twice as many sperm cells per straw.
“Up until now, sexed semen has been packed with two million cells (sperm), but the technology has advanced to the stage where the sorting processes are much more efficient and we can double up the number of cells in the straw to four million. We think that will be a game changer.”
There are also plans to launch sexed male beef semen for use in those dairy cows not needed for breeding herd replacements.
Mr Roach says: “Male sexed semen is relatively new and will grow quickly over the next couple of years.
“It will be mainly used on cows rather than heifers as the best genetics are generally the heifers, and we will see female sexed semen used on heifers and male sexed semen on the cows.
“I expect in three years’ time most of the inseminations will be with sexed product. It is like black-and-white and colour TVs – no one has a black-and-white TV anymore.”