How logical is using male sexed semen when breeding beef bulls to dairy cows

I’ve been recommending using beef semen on the bottom half of the milking herd and sexed female semen on the top half of the heifers for quite awhile now. As I’ve watched the market for the resulting calves, I’ve become curious about the differential between the bulls and heifers and if it would pay to use male sexed semen to capture the premium on the steer calves.

Let’s consider breeding ten cows to a Black Angus bull who has male sexed semen available. If it takes two services per conception and the semen cost $45 per breeding, my total cost would be $900 to get all ten cows pregnant.

Calving time rolls around and the ten cows have eight bulls and two heifers. I feed them up to 250 pounds and take them to Tri State Auction where the steers bring $115 cwt and the heifers bring $95 per cwt.  My auction check would be $2775 but I would have to deduct the $900 semen cost so the net would be $1875

Had I bred the cows with conventional semen the semen cost would have been $25 per breeding. Fifty percent of the calves would have been heifers and the resulting check from auction would have been $2625. Deducting the semen cost, my net would have been $2125. So using the male sexed semen would have lost me $250.

However let’s change the percentage of bull calves to 90 percent. Using the same auction prices, we find that the lost revenue is down to $200, still in favor of the conventional semen.

Now lets consider the same resulting male calves, but change the auction prices to $125/cwt for the steers and keep the heifers at $95/cwt. At 80 percent males, the figures still favor the conventional semen strategy. With 90 percent males, the conventional semen continues to make the most financial sense by $100.

It would take a scenario with a spread of over $35 for steers over heifers or the male sexed semen price reduced to $25, for it to make financial sense to use male sexed semen on dairy cows. Mike Koedam with Tristate Livestock Auction makes the point that each calf is different, “If it’s black with no spots, it sells for more over a calf with white spots”.

In today’s market the extra value of the crossbred calves will put extra revenue in the dairy enterprise. With the use of female sexed semen on the top heifers and conventional semen on the other heifers and top-end cows, dairymen would continue to have sufficient replacement heifers. However, in today’s market, foregoing male sexed semen and breeding dairy cows with conventional beef semen makes the most economic sense.

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