In today’s dairy and beef breeding programs farmers can use sexed semen or conventional semen. Farmers always ask the question why use sexed semen?
As an answer, use of sexed semen is important to ensure herd replacements in line with selection pressure that enhance herd genetic progress, it offers opportunity to cull and drive herd structure younger. Furthermore, use of sexed semen results in reduction of unwanted male calves while increasing heifers excess of which, can be sold to bring extra income. In addition, sexed semen improves calving ease which is important for both heifers and cows.
Insemination of cattle using sexed semen will increase the chance of getting female calves up to 92% from 50%, while use of conventional semen will only produce a calf sex ratio of 50% female to 50% male. Most dairy farmers are reluctant to use sexed semen partly because of misconceptions about the cost relative to the value thereof, misinformation on semen fertility and conception rates.
The following benefits of sexed semen technologies have been confirmed from case studies:
- Up to 92 % chances of getting heifer calves for dairy farmers
- 4 % fewer difficult calving
- Conception rates similar or closer to that of conventional semen with use of latest sexed semen technology known as SexedUltra–4M (has high fertility than ordinary sexed semen)
- An extra 981lb. (446 litres) more milk from cows that have heifer calves across two lactations
- Extra KES value from heifer calves
- Further improvements in conception rates following delayed breeding by 4 to 8 hours
- Also, for best results from use of sexed semen, use it on 1st and 2nd services on heifer and high fertility cows
From the foregoing it is worthwhile for dairy farmers in Kenya to use sexed semen in view of the economic advantages that are associated with the same.
Illustrations of the economic advantages that are associated with use of sexed semen: an estimation from a back of an envelope computation.
We can simply look at the average live weight of a bred heifer to be slightly more than 330 kg [(550*0.6 = 330kg)] 60% of its final body weight of 550kg, and average costs a bred heifer of KES 175,000 [range KES 150,000 to KES 200,000]. A steer sold weighing same live-weight of 330 kg at KES 250 per kilogram live-weight is worth KES 82,500. Thus, the average value of the heifers and steer calves from use of conventional bull semen is KES 128,750 ([50% x KES175,000] + [50% x KES 82,500]). On the contrary, if a farmer uses sexed semen instead of conventional semen he/she could get 92% heifer calves instead, the average calf value would be KES 167,600 ([92% x KES 175,000] + [8% x KES 82,500]). In this example, the difference in average value, the gender value difference is KES 38,850/calf ([167,600-128,750]). The farmer who uses sexed semen will have a heifer advantage of KES 38,850 (US$ 363.73) per calf born.
Let us consider a farmer who breeds his/her cows to sexed or conventional bull semen 60 days post calving. The calves born from use of conventional semen will be expected at sex ratio of 50% female to 50% male. However, calves born from sexed semen will be expected at ratios of 92% female to 8% male. If the farmer sales the calves, male and female, at weaning stage (90 days of age) he or she expects revenue of KES 27,750 and KES 12,500 for the heifer and bull calf respectively. We consider the critical computation parameter estimates as follows; cow feed cost of KES 255 per day, milk price of KES 35 per liter, milk fed to weaning quantity of 480 litres/calf [(480*35) = KES16,800, plus creep feed worth KES 2,500, sexed semen cost of KES 3,500 and conventional semen cost of KES 900. Computed costs for net calf profit margins are KES 27,668 and KES 15,438 for sexed and conventional semen respectively. Thus, the farmer who uses sexed semen gets a heifer benefit of KES 12,230 (US$114,51).
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*Computations used data from Mr. Biko Githinji of Green Farm, Githunguri Kenya. Cost of labour was estimated at KES 45/cow/day, Zero-grazing housing cost of KES 81.19 was based on 10-year depreciated value of a 6 to 8 cowshed valued at KES300,000. Gestation period costs were based on 305-day lactation less 60 days calving to breeding. Also, cow feed costs considered 185[(245-60)] days from conception to dry period and also 60 dry period feed levels at 0.75 lactation feed level.