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Review: Applications and benefits of sexed semen in dairy and beef herds

  • S. A. Holden (a1) and S. T. Butler (a1)

The use of sexed semen in dairy and beef cattle production provides a number of benefits at both farm and industry levels. There is an increasing demand for dairy and beef products across the globe, which will necessitate a greater focus on improving production efficiency. In dairy farming, there is surplus production of unwanted male calves. Male dairy calves increase the risk of dystocia compared with heifer calves, and as an unwanted by-product of breeding with conventional semen, they have a low economic value. Incorporating sexed semen into the breeding programme can minimise the number of unwanted male dairy calves and reduce dystocia. Sexed semen can be used to generate herd replacements and additional heifers for herd expansion at a faster rate from within the herd, thereby minimising biosecurity risks associated with bringing in animals from different herds. Furthermore, the use of sexed semen can increase herd genetic gain compared with use of non-sorted semen. In dairy herds, a sustainable breeding strategy could combine usage of sexed semen to generate replacements only, and usage of beef semen on all dams that are not suitable for generating replacements. This results in increased genetic gain in dairy herd, increased value of beef output from the dairy herd, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from beef. It is important to note, however, that even a small decrease in fertility of sexed semen relative to conventional semen can negate much of the economic benefit. A high fertility sexed semen product has the potential to accelerate herd expansion, minimise waste production, improve animal welfare and increase profitability compared with non-sorted conventional semen.

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