Tesco dairy farmers can now take advantage of a new sexed semen offer from the supermarket and Genus.

Tesco dairy producers have driven the supermarket to subsidise use of sexed semen, due to restricted dairy bull calf options.

With 1200 Tesco sustainable dairy group members voicing concerns over numbers of dairy bull calves with a poor value compared to dairy replacements, something had to be done to meet producer demands, says Tesco’s agriculture manager for dairy, Emma Rutter.

“We wanted a scheme that gave producers a good deal, which is why we listened to members and approached Genus for an exclusive sexed-semen offer. No other genetic company could provide the vast quantity of sexed semen needed.”

Tesco is subsidising £100 vouchers which can be used for the first 20 straws of sexed-semen bought, until 31 July. Vouchers will be sent to suppliers in the next few weeks and can be used through Genus technicians or for telephone orders.

“Positive comments were received from our producers when we released news at the Arla conference last week,” continued Miss Rutter.

“Sexed-semen is more financially viable for dairy producers, as having a heifer calf compared to a bull calf far outweighs the added cost. Genus sexed semen costs between £28 and £45 a straw compared to conventional semen at £18-20.

“It must be stressed Tesco doesn’t want to reduce numbers of bull calves. There is a shortage of British beef, so we are looking at a range of options for dairy bull calves.

“We are in the process of setting up an online match-making system linking dairy and beef producers, minimising unwanted dairy bull calves. The sexed-semen offer isn’t a one-off. We aim to have continuing deals for our dairy farmers.”

Sexed-semen technology is moving forward, but the issue of unwanted dairy calves remains, says Paul Westaway, Genus regional director.

“Not only is this an opportunity for Tesco producers to breed heifers replacements, but these will be heifers of the highest genetic merit from 16 Holstein bulls and two Jerseys.

“There will be 60,000-70,000 maiden heifers to breed from this year and, with heifer replacements averaging about £500 and bull calves only £20, you can see why many will take up this offer. The only challenge being presented for some is the lack of appropriate AI handling facilities.

A Tesco producer considering sexed semen is Mark Lovatt of Leicestershire. “This is a small part of the solution to a big problem,” says Mr Lovatt. “The promotion is a good idea from Tesco, adding choice.

“Before buying sexed semen it has to fit my breeding criteria for bulls, including type, legs, feet and conformation. I won’t buy any semen that may jeopardise my herd. The idea of sexed semen sounds good, although I’ve heard it’s better used on maiden heifers.

“If the semen characteristics are right I will sample it on a small batch of bought-in maiden heifers before trying it on the herd, starting small and building up.

“Breeding fewer bull calves is an incentive at the moment. However, when beef prices increase and margins in rearing and finishing rise, this may draw more beef calves through,” he says.