• Economic impact of different strategies to use sex-sorted sperm for reproductive management in seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy herds

      Ruelle, E.; Shalloo, L.; Butler, S.T.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; Irish Dairy Levy; 15/5/696; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier, 2021)
      To maximize efficiency, profitability, and societal acceptance of modern dairy production, it is important to minimize the production of male dairy calves with poor beef merit. One solution involves using sex-sorted sperm (SS) to generate dairy replacements and breeding all other cows to an easy-calving, short-gestation bull with good beef merit. We used the Pasture Based Herd Dynamic Milk Model to investigate the effect of herd fertility and use of SS on farm net profit in a herd of 100 cows. This was completed by simulating herds with differing fertility performance (good, average, poor), and differing farm reproductive management [conventional semen (CONV) or SS with varying pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI) relative to CONV (i.e., relative P/AI 100%, 85%, and 70%)]. As an additional consideration, the method of allocating SS to cows was also examined. The first option used SS on random heifers and cows (S). The second option used SS on heifers and targeted high-fertility cows (SSel). The final option was similar to SSel, but used a fixed-time artificial insemination (AI) protocol to facilitate AI on the farm mating start date (SSync). For CONV, dairy breed semen was used for AI until 50 animals were pregnant (50% chance of a female calf), whereas for S, SSel, or SSync the target number of animals successfully conceiving with SS was set at 28 (based on assumed 90% chance of a female calf from pregnancies derived from SS). Beef breed semen was used on all other dams. The results indicated that the biggest effect on farm net profit was not based on whether or not SS was used, but instead was most affected by the overall fertility performance of the herd. Total farm profit decreased by 10% between the good and average fertility herds, and decreased by a further 12% between the average and poor fertility herds. In almost all situations, when the relative P/AI with SS was 85%, use of SS led to an overall increase of the farm net profit. There was an economic benefit of using either SSel or SSync compared with S for the average and poor fertility herds but not for the good fertility herd, highlighting an interaction between SS P/AI and overall herd fertility as well as management practices. If the relative P/AI with SS was <70%, the use of SS led to a decrease in profitability in all simulations except for SSync, highlighting the importance of a good management strategy for use of SS. The findings in this study indicated that SS has significant potential to help facilitate greater integration between the dairy and beef production sectors, as well as increase farm profitability when used appropriately.