Bull semen testing project aims to reduce carbon footprint

Poor semen quality can drag down a suckler herd’s fertility and increase its carbon footprint.

A new study is gauging the extent of infertility in semen samples, whether from artificial insemination or stock bulls.

The £2.2m project involves vets and labs in the UK and Canada and is aimed at developing new agricultural techniques to help meet net-zero targets.

Several areas related to achieving sustainable genetic progress are being assessed, including the role of semen quality and transport.

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Current UK figures suggest about one-third of bulls are sub-fertile.

Jonathan Statham from RAFT Solutions – which is handling the semen analysis for the project – explained how this might affect a farm’s carbon footprint.

“Every empty cow a beef suckler herd carries means there is an unproductive animal with no valuable beef protein to offset it,” he said.

Getting more cows pregnant at the start of the block will give more opportunity to maximise calf weight gains.

This would dilute a cow’s carbon footprint further by maximising the kilos of beef she produces, he added.

As part of the project, beef and dairy farmers will be able to test bull semen through a heavily subsidised scheme, which should become available this spring.

The project is run through the XL Vets’ network, but farmers can contact any local vet to see if they can access the service, which will be rolled out over two years.

Jonathan Statham was speaking at the British Cattle Breeders Club conference on 25 January.