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TAKING A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO DRIVING EFFICIENCIES AND PROFITABILITY ON FARM
Genus ABS customers are significantly benefitting from a combined approach to the use of sexed dairy and beef semen on their herds.
An increasing number of dairy producers are implementing a combined approach to breeding that involves the use of sexed semen on the very best cows in the herd and beef semen on the remainder. This approach aims to ensure that sufficient heifer replacements are produced, whilst an additional source of income is generated through the sale of beef x dairy calves. Research recently conducted by Genus ABS indicates that 30% of UK dairy cows are currently artificially inseminated to beef – suggesting that UK dairy farmers are certainly taking advantage of opportunities presented by this approach.
Larissa Jones, Dairy Product Manager, Genus ABS explains the benefits in more detail: “The volatile economic climate in which dairy farmers operate means that they becoming increasingly focused on the economics of their business. Driving farm efficiencies and generating additional sources of income to ensure the long-term sustainability of a farm is paramount. The use of sexed semen presents the dairy farmer with many benefits, including the reassurance that sufficient heifer replacements will be obtained and that faster genetic gain is made. By taking a combined breeding approach, dairy farmers are not only protecting the long-term viability of their herd, but they are also producing high quality beef x dairy offspring that provides an alternative much needed source of income for the dairy farmer.”
Roger and Lyn Edwards milk 250 dairy cows from their farm in Bettisfield, Shropshire. They have been reaping the benefits having introduced a combined beef and sexed semen approach in 2011: “Four years ago we decided to adapt the way that we make breeding decisions for our herd. We now serve first and second lactation cows to sexed dairy semen and third lactation onwards to beef. The support of our Breeding Advisor, David Gough has been second to none. Together, we’ve worked really hard to achieve a pregnancy rate of 18%, (above the national average of 13%). The use of sexed semen is aimed at achieving around 100 heifer replacements each year. The increased availability of sires that are available as sexed has really helped us to increase the quantity of sexed semen that we use. Recently, we’ve even started using genomic sexed sires,” explained Roger.
Lyn went on to explain how beef genetics are used: “When selecting the most suitable beef bulls we primarily focus on those that score highly for calving ease and gestation length, closely followed by calf quality and have had notable success from the likes of Ploughman and Duster. We’ve been really surprised by the contribution from the sale of the beef calves and it’s made us realise the importance of devoting much more time in the future to our beef sire selections. The boost that the calves provide to our income helps massively.”
Jocelyn Orr, Beef Brand Manager, Genus ABS commented: “With an estimated 200,000 dairy bull calves killed each year and the sale of beef calves generating ￡160 – ￡400 each; there is still significant scope to increase the number of dairy-beef cross calves produced and for dairy farmers to benefit from the additional revenue.”
Philip Roberts farms alongside his father and son in Llanissilio, Dyfed and are currently milking 190 cows. Whilst the Roberts farm has not been affected by TB, it is located in a TB area and as a result the family has had to adapt how they make their breeding decisions: “In 2013 our Breeding Advisor Iwan Williams recommended introducing a combined approach to the use of sexed and beef semen. We’d been getting far too many Holstein bull calves on the ground and not enough replacement heifers. With our farm being located in a TB restricted area it means that we are sometimes unable to buy and sell cattle, so it’s absolutely essential that we can breed sufficient heifer replacements. Plus we also benefit from the additional revenue generated by the beef calves. Since we started using sexed semen we’ve seen a significant improvement in pregnancy rate and heat detection rate (55%). Being in a TB area can really restrict your business and so you have to be acute when it comes to making decisions about the farm, but our hard work is really starting to pay off.”
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