With the value of Holstein bull calves at rock bottom the last several years, many farms are looking toward the use of beef semen. Along the way, several are also moving to strictly breed either to beef semen or sexed semen.
“We have been using sexed semen as long as it’s been around. It wasn’t until April 2018 that we began using ABS Sexcel sorted semen,” explained Devin Helt, who dairies with his family in Dane, Wis. “We noticed benefits of sexed semen in the virgin heifers and that encouraged us to try some on the lactating herd. We dabbled with it and tried a little more and a little more.
“Eventually, we were comfortable enough to do away with conventional semen altogether,” the co-owner of Helt Dairy continued. “We had started breeding all first-lactation animals to sexed semen because we had a better conception rate in that group than older animals. Then, we rethought our process. Just because those animals were in first lactation didn’t mean they would necessarily make it to third lactation and beyond. So, we started looking closer at our farm specific index rankings and doing genomic testing on heifers. That has really helped us break it down to breed our best cows to sexed semen.”
Three other farms shared additional insight in this Hoard’s Dairyman Intel as well as the Round Table “We breed for the number we need” found on pages 116 to 118 of the February 25, 2020, issue of Hoard’s Dairyman.
Here are their responses regarding the question, “How do you utilize sexed semen?”
Oakridge Dairy, Ellington, Conn.: We breed all of our heifers to sexed dairy semen and utilize it in about 250 total services each month; some of those are lactating cows. First-lactation cows are almost all 100% sexed semen. Second and greater lactation cows get sexed semen, if needed. It just depends on how many we have to breed that month. We determine which animals get sexed semen in the lactating herd by comparing parent averages.
We have modified which animals we use sexed semen on as we have changed the number of heifers we need. We’ve also changed what sexed semen we use in order to make even better heifers. It’s always been focused on the highest genetic animal because ultimately that is the goal with this whole management program. Interestingly, our sexed semen conception rate is higher than our beef semen rate. That is due to the fact that our best animals get bred to sexed semen.
SwissLane Farms, Alto, Mich.: We use sexed semen on the high-genetic animals. We started using more sexed semen at the same time as we started doing more embryo work. I don’t see a point in time that I will ever go back to conventional semen, unless Holstein bull calf prices somehow make a comeback price wise. Right now, I don’t want any Holstein bulls.
Zahncroft Dairy, Womelsdorf, Pa.: We used sexed semen when we were in our expansion phase but discontinued after we had enough heifers.