Sexed semen has the potential to completely change the industry. If pregnancy rates with altered semen continue to improve, we could see not only major efficiency upgrades in cattle production, but the reduction of many practices animal rights groups would like to see end. A great example is the veal industry, which is perpetuated not so much from a consumer demand for veal, but for a need to recuperate costs from unneeded male calves in the dairy industry. Being able to avoid the negative public image of producing veal calves by using sexed semen would be an appealing option for many milk producers. This proposal is exploring the financial benefit of using sexed semen in beef cattle production (in which weaned steers sell for 15% more than heifers).
The study will be simple, but with an awesome sample size of 450 cattle. We will synchronize estrus using a controlled intravaginal drug-releasing device (CIDR), along with other synchronization methods I need to do some more research to explain. For an overview of several CIDR methods you can look here. Serum concentrations of progesterone will be used to determine if normal estrous cycles are occurring, after which we will use standard AI techniques to inseminate the cows with either the sexed semen or the control semen.
When all is said and done, we will not only examine pregnancy rates, but the performance of the offspring in growth and carcass quality. The overall picture will provide the best financial perspective when examining the feasibility of using this technology in the future.
It’s a cool study, and I’m excited to see if the pregnancy rates with the sexed semen are high enough to start incorporating it into mainstream production. The large sample size is great because that makes the conclusions from this study have weight for producers that take financial risk in the future trying to incorporate sexed semen into their programs. Few studies examining sexed semen have had large enough sample sizes to validate their results. Additionally, this study is the first of its kind to examine a direct cost-benefit relationship of using the new technology in comparison to the established methods.
You can read the full proposal here.