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Bargains in the semen market.

Dairy Pipeline: May 1996

by Bennet Cassell
Extension Dairy Scientist
Genetics and Management
Virginia Tech

Semen prices for the top Holstein bulls for TPI or Net Merit are going down. Over the past two years, average semen price for the top 25 Holsteins for TPI has dropped over $7 to an average of $22. Over the same time period, the top 25 Holstein bulls for Net Merit have dropped $2 to an average of $16.76. Since each group includes bulls below as well as above the average price, careful buyers can find some top genetics at very reasonable prices. Semen buyers should look at how a bull was sampled (40 herd proofs or sample code "S" are preferred) as well as semen price when choosing from this elite group of sires. Higher priced semen will yield greatest returns when used on the most fertile females. The most fertile animals are almost always the breeding age heifers. With good heat detection and AI technique, services per conception can be expected to be below 1.5 units for heifers. Watch calving ease information and use bulls with "%DBH" evaluations of 9 or lower on heifers. Bulls with higher percent difficult births can still be used, but assign them to cows in the milking herd. Lower prices for high ranking AI bulls indicates a lower demand for top genetics than in previous years. Dairy managers may be overreacting to high feed prices. Just because purchased feeds of all types are at near record prices doesn't mean that every farm input is "too expensive". This looks like the best opportunity in years to bring top genetics into dairy herds at low cost. Take advantage of the situation by investing in semen on top bulls and a complete herd AI program. Using semen from top bulls won't make purchased feeds any less expensive, but it will ensure that replacement heifers entering the herd in three years are the best ever on the farm!

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