A difference of opinion between American and European cattle breeders is forcing semen from top-quality Limousin bulls to be sold below its true market value.

Cornish beef farmers Bill and Suzie Harper imported high-genetic merit black Limousin embryos from Canada to improve the depth of genetics within the UK national herd. But until progeny is established and estimated breeding values attributed to the bulls, semen will have to be sold at a discounted rate.

“The Americans favour a different grading and classification system to us meaning it’s difficult to compare their figures with the European system,” says Mr Harper.

His reason for looking to North America was based on a greater range and depth of quality genetics there. “The black Limousin genetic pool in the UK is limited – probably only five or six lines – and every time you look at something it can be traced back to something you’ve got relations of. So we needed fresh genetics and that meant going abroad,” says Mr Harper.

Having travelled to Canada to find the sire and dam that met their needs, the Harpers imported nine embryos from Magic Touch, sired by Cole Magnum, which produced five bull calves and a female.

The Harpers are offering three of the four bulls on 23 April at their farm at Holsworthy, Cornwall. “That will be the first and only chance to buy Cole Magnum sons in the UK because we can’t bring in eggs anymore,” says Mr Harper.

“Now black Limousins have topped the Perth Bull Sales two years running, people are taking notice. But the breed lacks depth of figures because most blacks have been bought by commercial breeders.”

At the time of importing the embryos, it seemed sensible to vaccinate them with an IBR marker, but this immediately diminished their appeal to studs. Fortunately, a second flush to the same sire produced three more embryos and the Harpers quickly bought these.

Semen from Tamarvalley Boskednan, the only bull to be born from the second flush, is to be marketed through Genus from October 2009. In the meantime the Harpers hope to reach an agreement between breeders to exchange bulls in an attempt to establish breeding values.