The business pages of the Sunday newspapers are always full of news of AI startups, disrupters, movers and shakers. Well now it’s farming’s turn for an AI startup, but this time it refers to artificial insemination rather than artificial intelligence.
Bullwise is a new AI company started up by Terry Dillon, who formerly headed up the Munster Bovine breeding programme.
Joining Terry on the sales team are his former colleagues at Munster Eustace Burke, Mike Clohessy and Mervyn Kearney, while Arthur Bredin returns to his genetics roots covering the west of Ireland having previously worked at Progressive Genetics.
The company is the sole distributor of CRV genetics on the island of Ireland, as well as the Bova and Forge genetics range of bulls.
CRV is a Dutch-based AI co-operative that has breeding programmes in various countries around the world, including New Zealand. According to Eustace Burke, a CRV-bred calf is born somewhere in the world every seven seconds.
Bullwise will be marketing the CRV range of Holstein Friesian, Jersey and crossbred bulls from the New Zealand breeding programme that are more suited to grass-based systems and also the higher-yielding Holstein bulls more suited to higher-input systems.
Eustace says a team of experienced AI technicians are flying in from New Zealand to work as Bullwise technicians for this coming breeding season. They also have a flat rate fee with Dovea technicians of €16 for a Bullwise straw to be used.
They are also using triple mixes for their beef straws which he says achieves between 6% and 10% higher conception rates.
This is where three different breeds are used in the one AI straw. Each of the bulls will have varying sperm life and there is said to be increased competition in the uterus, both of which are said to improve conception rates.
Split on sexed semen
Two years ago, there was no sexed semen lab in Ireland and bulls whose semen was going to be sexed had to travel to the UK for their semen to be sexed there, and then they had to remain in the UK. This meant the top and highest-selling EBI bulls were not being brought forward for sexing because of the costs involved.
To get over this, Teagasc in September 2021 announced it would establish a sexing lab in Moorepark which could be used by Irish AI companies to get their straws sexed. Last November, NCBC announced it was opening its own sexed semen lab in Kildare to service the needs of its parent companies – Progressive Genetics and Munster Bovine.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands some of the NCBC bulls being stationed in Mallow continue to be sexed in the Moorepark lab. The only other companies using the Moorepark facility are smaller players Dovea and Eurogene.
The Moorepark sexed semen lab is funded for another two years and what happens then is uncertain. With NCBC doing its own thing, smaller players like Dovea, Eurogene and Bullwise are exposed in that if the Moorepark lab closes, there will not be a sexing lab in Ireland available to them and their bulls will likely have to go overseas to be sexed.
The biggest loser in this situation is the Irish farmer, who may not be able to get access to the best Irish bred and Irish born AI bulls.