U.S. dairy producers will have 722,000 more heifers available from 2008 through 2012, thanks to sexed semen technology that started coming online in 2006.
That’s according to estimates by Albert De Vries, a dairy specialist with the University of Florida, based on information provided by USDA and Dairy Herd Improvement Association processing centers.
“The first heifer calves conceived with sexed semen in early 2006 were starting to enter the milking herds in late 2008,” he says. “A total of 722,000 extra heifers are projected to calve in the five years from 2008 to 2012.”
By year, the numbers break down as follows: 8,000 heifers in 2008; 63,000 heifers in 2009; 156,000 heifers in 2010; 258,000 heifers in 2011; 237,000 heifers in 2012.
The reason the numbers tail off in 2012 is that reported inseminations with sexed semen declined during 2009, a time of extremely low milk prices and tight margins.
Dairy Records Management Systems in Raleigh, N.C., for example, reports that sexed semen use in heifers was nearly 23% in April 2009. But from May through December 2009, reported use varied between 20.2% and 21.6%.
While the numbers seem high, the percentage of extra heifers is not. That’s because 48% of the pregnancies would have been heifers with the use of conventional semen anyway. On a percentage basis, the use of sexed semen provides 7% to 8% more heifers at current usage rates, De Vries says.