Economic Considerations for Using Sexed Semen in Dairy

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The major goal for using sexed semen is to have a calf of a specific sex produced. The reason why many farmers prefer using sexed semen these days is because of the higher grade and higher number of heifers produced from it.  The economics benefits for using sexed semen varies from one dairy farm to another as some may concentrate on numbers as others concentrate on quality only (Hutchinson, Shalloo & Butler, 2013). This paper will look into the economics of sexed semen and give comparisons between use of normal breeding and sexed semen in dairy.


Sexed semen is one where selection and sorting are used to modify a fraction of x-bearing and y-bearing. The technique works by staining sperm with a DNA-binding fluorescent dye. The method’s accuracy of obtaining desired sex from sexed semen is about 90% which is fair enough for this method (Seidel, 2011). Nevertheless, the method is comparatively slow due to the lower doses of sperm in each straw, this could lead to a negative effect in the sorting process. It is thus clear that fertility of sexed sperm is lower as compared to that of conventional sperm. There is a continuous improvement is the technology of semen cell sorting and thus the possibility of reduced errors, and semen cost (Seidel, 2007).

Random chance

Random chance affects the outcomes of breeding cows with sexed semen in that when the probability to conceive is let’s say 50%, In this case, one may get fewer or more pregnant than half.

Another probability statistic applies in that, according to Dejamette et al., 2008, only 90% of the calves conceived from sexed semen are heifer calves. It then applies that if 10 calves are born from sexed semen chances that 9 of them are heifers are at 39% only.

Economic considerations

i. Calf prices

The primary aim of obtaining sexed semen comes from the desire for getting as many heifer calves as possible. Basing our reasoning on the fact that heifer calves are far too expensive when sold as compared to bull calves, it thus means that the cost of raising heifer is quite higher as compared to that of bull calves (Vries, 2018). Consequently, when a heifer calf is not sold its price deteriorates indirectly. For example, one would spend $160 in raising then eventually sells it at $400; it then means that the cost of the heifer calf would have dropped from $400 to $240, i.e  ($400-$160).

Besides the very little value of bull calves, being that they are euthanized at birth is perceived as a welfare concern around the world, this issue therefore triggers dairy farms to go for sexed semen.

ii.  Semen prices

The average premium sexed semen is sold at around $30 per straw as compared to conventional one. This, therefore, applies that the reduction in the number of heifer calves delivered would lead to losses (Vries, 2018).

Table 1. As per (Vries, 2018).

Table 2. Value of a new born heifer calf when she is either raised (Raised) or sold and a pregnant heifer is purchased (Vries, 2018).

Raising cost ($)

Purchase cost ($)

Value of new born heifer calf ($)



























Assumptions: 8% annual interest, discounted monthly. Market price newborn heifer calf is $450.


         To conclude, heifer calf is only profitable when it’s at least $400 more than the value of bull calf. The motivation behind coming up with heifer calves is primarily based on the desire for higher value calves being that bull calves are of very little value and also to deal with the concern of having euthanized bull calves.


DeJarnette, J., Nebel, R., Marshall, C., Moreno, J., McCleary, C., & Lenz, R. (2008). Effect of Sex-Sorted Sperm Dosage on Conception Rates in Holstein Heifers and Lactating Cows. Journal Of Dairy Science, 91(5), 1778-1785. doi: 10.3168/jds.2007-0964

Hutchinson, I., Shalloo, L., & Butler, S. (2013). Expanding the dairy herd in pasture-based systems: The role for sexed semen use on virgin heifers. Journal Of Dairy Science, 96(2), 1312-1322. doi: 10.3168/jds.2012-6126

Siedel, G. (2007). Overview of sexing sperm

Seidel, G. (2011). Economics of selecting for sex: the most important genetic trait. Theriogenology, 59(2), 585-598. doi: 10.1016/s0093-691x(02)01242-6

Vries, A. (2018). AN214/AN214: The Economics of Sexed Semen in Dairy Heifers and Cows.

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August 04, 2023

Economics Food Life

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