Sexed beef bull semen for inseminating dairy cows so they only produce crossbred males for finishing is to be tested on 5000 cows in a Meadow Quality trial.

The aim of the DEFRA-funded project is to introduce the advantages sexed semen can bring to dairy producers, Meadow Quality’s Duncan Winspear told Dairy Event visitors.

“Bulls and steers have greater eating consistency and carcass performance than female cattle. Using sexed semen will improve efficiencies and help meet consumer demands.” 

Variation in demand for male and female calves is reflected in their price with male animals worth much more than females, adds Mr Winspear. “Producing more beef cross males will potentially increase farmers returns.” 

Aberdeen Angus and Belgian Blue sires are being used at this stage of the research, he explains. These provide a good representation of the different types used in the British beef industry.

“For the Angus particularly, there is a large variation in the price between heifers and males due to the requirements of the marketing schemes that use this breed.” The Blue has been chosen due to the consistent large return it gets in the market place, he adds.

The project will involve inseminating 5000 cows through Cogent Breeding services across a number of dairy units. “On each farm half the cows will be inseminated with sexed semen and the other half with conventional semen.

“The aim is to take 1000 calves through to finish on an intensive bull, extensive steer or intensive steer finishing system, with weights, grades and fat classes recorded on all.”

Mr Winspear appreciates producers not familiar with sexed semen may have fears over low conception rates. But those already familiar with it for producing heifers reckon conception rates are not a problem, providing cows are regularly monitored for heat detection, he said.

“Cogent will also be on hand to offer guidance and support throughout the insemination process to ensure conception rates are maximised,” he adds.

Producers taking part in the trial will be offered a £10 a head premium on sexed semen-sired calves.