Sexed semen, talked about for so long, now seems to be making the great leap forward.

It was only in September 2021 that Teagasc initiated the first sexed semen laboratory in Moorepark. That was in conjunction with Sexing Technologies, which has just recruited Andrew Cromie to its ranks. Progressive Genetics and Munster AI followed fast on their heels, opening a second lab at the National Cattle Breeding Centre in Naas.

Now comes news that Dovea Genetics is about to set up a third facility. Is it overkill? It might seem it at first.

Demand for sexed semen is still a minority sport. There were discussions around a shared facility, but they floundered.

Companies preferred to keep the fences up rather than embark on a mixed grazing platform.

From a commercial point of view there’s a logic, but the cow, and the farmer, will have to carry the extra cost.

Perhaps the €20 differential will come down as usage increases, but there is a danger that if sexed semen is all that becomes available over time, we’ll see an upsurge in stock bulls again.

Of course, breeding costs nowadays extend way past straws. AI usage seems the only logical course for cows bejewelled with tags and necklaces to maximise heat detection.

And as the surge of dairy expansion cools off, the volume of heifer replacements required will adjust. At the same time, a viable beef progeny from the dairy cow may become a sustainability marker.

Irish market

Against this backdrop, we see more AI companies with eyes on the Irish market.

Bullwise, led by former Munster AI supremos Terry Dillon and Eustace Burke, is coming on to the pitch. It has teamed up with Limerick’s Bova AI (the formidable O’Neill dynasty) and CRV, a Dutch company with over 60% of its own AI market. Bova has some of the best genetics available from the Forge Group (the Cork-based dairy discussion group), which diversified its income stream by selecting the best high-EBI bull calves from its own herds and teaming up with O’Neills.

The Dealer also understands that Bullwise has recruited a number of well-known AI technicians.

Furthermore, I understand that two of Dovea’s sales force have teamed up with another Dutch AI company. Ki Samen is the largest privately owned AI station in the Netherlands, with an estimated 5-10% of the Dutch market, which is not to be sneezed at.