No, we are not expecting…and actually, we will hopefully have several girls. Confused yet? This week we purchased our first sorted semen! If you’re not as excited as I am about this, perhaps a little background will help.
A big part of our effort to improve our herd genetics is Artificial Insemination (AI). We purchase semen from various companies, each with their own set of bulls they market. We pay close attention to a variety of traits that are predicted for each bull, and for each mating we select a bull based on his proof to improve certain traits in the heifer or cow. For example, if we have a cow with bad feet, we breed her to a bull that should improve the feet of her offspring.
Because we can’t milk bulls, being a heifer (girl) is perhaps the most desireable trait a calf can have. With conventional semen there is only about a 50% chance of a heifer for each pregnancy. Technology is a crazy thing, though, and someone figured out that you can sort the semen so that the likelihood of heifers is much higher (estimated at about 90%). Here is an explanation of how that sorting is done from the only company that currently does this, Sexing Technologies.
Why is this the first time we’ve purchased sexed semen? Number one, it’s more expensive. Sexed semen is approximately twice as expensive as conventional semen. The average conception rate for sorted semen is also lower, so you get fewer cows pregnant for more money. We’ve decided, however, that this risk is worth giving it a try for the reward of more heifer calves. We want to improve our herd, and we want to do so quickly, so the more replacements with improved genetics that we can raise, the better.
Our plan is to use this semen on virgin heifers, as is generally recommended. I don’t know the exact reason for the recommendation, but we generally see higher conception rates with heifers than lactating cows, so we hope that we will still see a reasonably good conception rate with sorted semen. If anyone is curious which bull we purchased, it’s Chase from ABS. You can see his proof here. He’s not the best at any one trait, but he’s got solid numbers for a wide variety of traits and should work well on many of our heifers.
We can’t wait to see how our first trial with sorted semen works out. We’ll be sure to let you know how our conception rate is, and if we have any bull calves. We don’t do any ultrasounds, though, so we won’t know those results until the calves are on the ground.