Demand Has Dairy Farmers Turning to Technology to Produce More With Less

Dairy farmers are turning to technology to breed higher producing animals instead of increasing herd size.

As a result, the country's largest supplier of artificial breeding services recorded incredible demand for its fresh sexed semen for the third consecutive season.

The Livestock Improvement Corporation's sexed semen delivers a 90 percent chance of producing a female calf.

"Using sexed semen helps farmers accelerate the rate of genetic gain by effectively guaranteeing female offspring, their next generation of replacements, from their highest genetic merit cows," explained LIC's general manager of New Zealand markets, Malcolm Ellis.

When used across a herd's top-performing cows, it can produce animals with superior genetics allowing farmers to increase production with the same or less stock.

Ellis said the co-operative would inseminate approximately 200,000 cows with sexed semen this spring.

The demand had increased so much that LIC set up a new lab at its headquarters in Hamilton to host Sexing Technologies, a US company contracted to sex-sort semen from LIC's top dairy and beef artificial breeding bulls.

The state-of-the-art lab sits alongside LIC's bull farm and semen processing lab and is the world's biggest fresh sexed semen sorting facility.

"The lab is significantly larger than Sexing Technologies' previous laboratory in New Zealand, which will ensure we are set up to accommodate the growing demand for fresh sexed semen from our farmer shareholders," said Ellis.

Sexing Technologies used to be in Hamilton, but the semen had to be taken across town for sorting. Now, it can be collected and distributed on the same day for next day use.

"As we no longer need to transport semen offsite to be sex-sorted, we have significantly reduced the downtime between collection and the sorting process, enabling longer use in the field, which ultimately gives more farmers the opportunity to tap into its value," said Ellis.

LIC had been supplying sexed semen for over a decade, but interest has grown significantly in the last two years.

"With farmers proactively looking at ways to mitigate consumer, environmental and animal welfare concerns, sexed semen is a useful tool for them to have in their toolbox," Ellis said.

Otorohanga farmer Marian Numan used sexed semen for the first time last season to help reduce the number of bobby calves their herd produced.

"Using sexed semen across our top-tier cows has allowed us to produce roughly 30 heifer calves that would have otherwise been bobbies. It's a win-win - we can retain more of our good genetics with less waste overall," said Numan.

The new LIC lab opened in time for the peak spring mating season, which has LIC artificial breeding technicians inseminating around 4.5 million cows from September to December.