Dairy farmers looking to reduce their input costs and produce more milk from grass look set to benefit from the first sexed semen from a premier selection of elite bulls from the New Zealand-based farmer-owned co-operative, LIC.

The aim is to have eight bulls sexed – two Jerseys, three Holsteins and two Jersey/Holstein cross-breds – all of which are easy calving and according to the co-operative, will help to improve efficiency off grass, herd fertility and longevity.

"There is huge potential to improve efficiency and milk production off grass in this country as the UK can grow so much grass and good quality grass. Producers need to stop chasing litres and start chasing profit," said Mark Ryder, LIC Europe general manager.

The national herd in New Zealand comprises of 4.92m cows of which 2m plus are black and whites; 600,000 are pure-bred Jerseys and the remainder are cross-breds which are the 'supercows' of New Zealand, according to Mr Ryder, producing cows with improved levels of efficiency, fertility, and an average of six lactations.

Hence, demand for this sexed semen which will be available in the spring, is expected to be high.

"We've taken our time to select bulls that have been proven to sex well and perform within a grass-based farming system," said Mr Ryder pointing out that in contrast to the UK, the vast majority of herds in New Zealand are block calving and outdoors all year round at grass, thereby significantly reducing input costs while average milk yields stand at 4600litres.

Trials down under have shown that the 4M straw (4m cells) is the most effective as a third of the number of straws go forward for the sexing process. Collection will start in January, with the sexed semen straws then going into quarantine and storage while various tests are carried out before shipping. The aim is to have supplies in the UK at the start of the year.

Mr Ryder added however that the semen has to be used wisely, and maybe as part of a herd improvement programme such as on maiden heifers which are the most fertile, or on a cow that calved early and displayed a strong heat prior to mating.

Latest research figures from New Zealand show that pregnancy rates on average with sexed semen are lower but that that there are some extremely good and bad figures within the range.

"It's all about selecting the right heifers or cows and management around them, but there are still no guarantees. As the technology improves so will the conception rates," added Mr Ryder, pointing out that LIC boasts 75-85% of the grass-fed semen sales market in the UK.