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19th January, 2020

Use of sex semen and ov-synch programmes for maiden heifers

With animals confined indoors farmers wanting to use Ai in maiden heifers have been encouraged by Ai Companies to consider the use of ov-synch programmes in conjunction with sex semen for their maiden heifers.

Indeed, these maiden heifers may be housed indoors on outside farms where the ability to spend time watching heifers for heat is difficult. In-fact heat detection with maiden heifers confined indoors can be difficult unless you have time to spend watching heifers for at least a 20 minutes period on at least two occasions per day in conjunction with the use of some heat detection aid.

The use of ov-synch programmes facilities fixed time Ai programmes on a given date. My concern with these ov-synch programmes is the fitness of the heifers for breeding. Heifers may achieve the desired weight for breeding but because of previous stressors such as coccidiosis, crypto, pneumonia, swollen hocks, feet issues, they will not be reproductively sound for breeding.

The use of ov-synch programme in conjunction with heifers that are not fit for breeding results in very poor pregnancy rates in conjunction with Ai on a fixed time basis. My advice would be to access your heifers in terms of reproductive status prior to onset of any ov-synch programme to identify those heifers that are reproductively sound and suitable for sexed semen.

In a recent case study involving 18 maiden heifers which were put on an ov-synch programme and scanned for reproductive status, only 5 heifers were pregnant to the use of sexed semen. It transpired that 7 of the heifers put on the ov-synch programme were not reproductively sound and could not establish pregnancy after Ai.

The current cost of an ov-synch programme in conjunction with use of sexed semen straw with approval sire and Ai technician to breed the heifers cost approximately €90 per animal. In conclusion farmers would have significant financial gain to conduct Smart Scan pre-breed assessment on your heifers prior to use of any ov-synch programme