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Working Ranch April/May 2016

choice, now is a great time to take a second look at AI. It may not be practical to use AI on your entire herd if you have 1,000 head, but it could be an excellent option for optimizing a percentage of the herd every year. A great bull can be very productive and cost effective, but genetically you will still have some lost opportunities. “The technology behind the sex sorting process and the sexed semen itself has substantially evolved since we began commercially sorting semen in 2004,” says Hiney. “Initially, conception rates between conventional and sexed semen differed signifi cantly, as much as 25 percent, and the cost per straw of sexed semen was considerably higher. Over the past decade we dedicated signifi cant resources to researching and developing a more effi cient process that would create a higher quality, higher fertility product. The result is our SexedULTRA™ semen sorting process, which combines impressive advancements in our sorting machines, the software that runs them and the biochemistry that protects and nourishes sperm cells throughout sorting. Today’s SexedULTRA™ sex sorted semen produces conception rates that rival those achieved using conventional semen at less than half the cost of our original sexed product.” Currently, there is about a 5% difference in conception rates for sexed semen compared to conventional semen. The reason is density. Sexed semen contains 2.1 million sperm cells per straw, whereas a conventional semen straw contains about 30 million. MORE CONTROL If you’re willing to use AI and sexed semen you can easily capture additional heterosis for your crossbreeding program, get more control over your breeding season, and tap into genetics that might not be readily available locally. The strategy offers increased control for selection for desirable traits like milk production, calving ease, or docility when in the production of replacement heifers, and reduces the number of bulls you need to maintain for breeding. You can get sexed semen from commercial semen suppliers, by having your own bull’s semen sorted, or from another producer who has had his or her bull’s semen sorted. Bulls do need to meet quality control standards for motility and morphology in order to have their semen sexed. Historically it has been recommended that sexed semen be used only on heifers and top cows, particularly when choosing female calves, because typically that will result in a smaller calf and easier calving. Those that don’t settle with the sexed semen the fi rst time could then be bred with conventional semen or put in with a clean up bull. If you’re considering AI and sexed semen, you might begin by evaluating the true cost of natural service on your operation, the value of gender to your operation, and the potential for improved genetics. In addition, AI requires a willingness to learn how to breed or employing someone who will, a safe place to handle cattle, and developing a management and breeding protocol you can stick with. With further research and development, Hiney says technology will continue to improve and make the application of sexed semen easier. “There is ongoing research to help develop synchronization protocols that are specifi cally designed for the use of sex sorted semen. Improvements in the quality of the product combined with increasing knowledge of synchronization will improve the outcome of using sex-sorted semen and make it a viable, economically important tool available to producers to improve their bottom lines moving forward,” concludes Hiney. Take a look at your management practices and the genetic goals for your herd. Employing AI and sexed semen might just get you where you want to be a little faster. Passing the genetics of your top producing cows down into the replacement heifers can be done quite effi ciently by breeding them to a maternal-type bull. 120 I WORKING RANCH I APRIL / MAY 2016


Working Ranch April/May 2016
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