Sexed Semen – Will it affect the meat industry?

Sure it will.  Sexed semen allow livestock producers (right now, this is a cattle thing) to manage their herds more effectively, producing whatever the “target” sex for a given mating might be. Perhaps someone wants to raise many steers, or perhaps someone needs a large influx of replacement heifers — they may be able to do this with sexed semen.

How will this affect the meat industry?  It could affect the quality of cattle slaughtered, improved selection and mating, and a host of other potential factors.

The story below highlights a February workshop targeted to cattle producers:

Sexed Semen Is A Good Alternative For Use In Some Cattle Operations

5/13/2010 10:08:21 AM

University Park, Pa. — Semen that has been separated into male and female sperm is now available for the beef and dairy industries, a bovine specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences told attendees of a recent Pennsylvania Cattleman’s College Purebred Breeders Workshop.

The use of artificial insemination in cattle helps to improve genetic progress and improve access to higher-quality genetics for producers, according to Chad Dechow, associate professor of dairy genetics. “However, the 50/50 ratio of male and female calves that results may not be optimum for some breeders,” he said. “But the cost and conception rate using sexed semen is a compromise that must be addressed.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence and Pfizer Animal Health and was designed to provide current, progressive information to purebred beef breeders.

Sexed semen in beef cattle breeding programs can assist breeders in providing high-quality replacement heifers, providing a larger percentage of a calf crop that can be marketed as breeding bulls, or producing male calves that can be marketed as steers for junior steer projects. “The use of sexed semen is much greater in the dairy industry,” Dechow explained. “But most of the leading breeding companies have sexed beef semen available.”

The downside is that there is a higher cost for the semen and the success rate will be lower, Dechow noted. “Semen costs generally will be 50 percent to 100 percent higher, and studies have shown conception rates will be about 15 percent lower with sexed semen compared to traditional programs,” he said.

“Since the total number of sperm in a dose of sexed semen will be lower, it is not recommended for use in embryo-transfer programs. In addition, there are individual bull differences in the success rate for sexing the semen. Even given these deficiencies, sexing semen can have a huge impact for individual farms that have the ability to gain a premium for cattle of a particular sex.”

Source: Penn State University

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