26 March 1999

Advertisements for bull semen may hide truth

By Isabel Davies

CATTLE farmers have been warned that advertisements for bull semen may be misleading.

Roger Smith, chairman of the National Association of Breeder Services, the trade body representing cattle breeding firms, said there were certainly cases where farmers were not getting the whole story.

It was not so much what companies included in their adverts, but more what they chose to leave out, he said.

"I would advise dairy farmers to ask for all type and production information before buying," said Mr Smith. "If this is not freely available or included in the promotion, then they should think twice about the bull."

The Advertising Standards Authority is currently investigating complaints that a Genus advert could mislead producers.

But, according to Gordon Swanson of the Animal Data Centre, which ranks bull performance, the problem of companies using selective figures to portray bulls in the best light was industry-wide.

Although the advertising of bull semen was meant to be controlled by MAFF, the real problem was that the ministry was not policing the system, he said.

The Genus advert described one of its bulls, MOET Martha Franchise, as "one of the top 10 proven sires in the world – ever".

But the animal comes 22nd in the world using nationally recognised rankings collated in January by the ADC. The figures showed MOET Martha Franchise had a Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) of £117, compared with a PLI of £158 for the top bull.

Drew Sloan, director of dairy genetics at Genus, defended his companys claims and rejected accusations that the bull adverts were misleading.

"The ranking is inevitably subjective," he said. "But considering MOET Martha Franchise figures of £117 PIN, £117 PLI and +2.05 type, he is a world-class bull by anyones standards."

A MAFF spokesman described the current regulations as "out of date and inappropriate" and said that the existing rules for advertising were likely to be revoked later this year and replaced by an industry code of practice. &#42