Sexed Semen in the beef industry in previous years may have seemed out of reach for the commercial producer. In a previous article, “How Does the Cost of AI Compare to Natural Service?” by Warren Rusche, it discussed the cost of AI service versus natural service. With AI service cost per pregnancy decreasing and the purchase price of bulls reaching new levels each year AI may be a feasible option. In addition to the conventional semen for AI, sexed semen could also be an option.
Sexed semen has been utilized in the dairy industry for several years. With dairy heifers fetching a $300-$400 premium over bull calves, there is a definite return on investment for sexed semen in the dairy industry.
What about the commercial cattle herd? Are there premiums enough to counter balance the increased cost of the semen and the decreased conception rates? I suppose that depends on the final product you are aiming for.
So what does sexed semen cost and how does it compare to conventional semen?
Sexed semen can range anywhere from $10-$20 more per straw than conventional semen. This increase in expense for sexed semen is from the specialized equipment needed to sex the semen and additional time and labor to process sexed semen for shipping or freezing. In addition to the equipment, time, and labor, an ejaculate yields fewer straws of sexed semen than conventional semen. These all combine to add cost to the semen.
When it comes to conception rates, research has shown that typical pregnancy rates are around 70% of conventional semen. However, to achieve this 70% of conventional semen it is recommended that sexed semen be used only in animal that are detected in standing estrus. If used for a clean-up (mass) AI or for fixed-time AI conceptions rates can be much lower. What does 70% of conventional semen really mean? A study at the University of Nebraska, found in the “2012 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report” compared using conventional semen to sexed semen in a commercial beef heifer program. Heifers were synchronized with a MGA protocol and estrus activity was monitored for 3 days. On the afternoon of the third day all heifers not detected in heat were mass bred. Overall conception rates for conventional semen were 58% whereas the sexed semen was 41% (70.6% of the conventional semen). For heifers no detected in standing estrus and mass inseminated conceptions rates were greater for conventional semen (34.9%) compared to sexed semen (15.8%; 45% of conventional semen). Utilizing all costs involved, including the decreased conception rates, it was determined that the pregnant heifer net cost for the 1)conventional semen was $1,264.00, 2) sexed semen was $1,308.00 and 3) natural service was $1,259.00. A large portion of the heifers (83%) were sold as bred heifers with the AI heifers selling for a price of $1,344/animal and natural service heifers sold at an average of $1,238/animal. Gender difference using sexed semen was not determined as all heifers were sold for the same price.