DESPITE a challenging domestic market, sales of sexed semen within the Australian dairy industry have increased.
According to the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia's (NHIA) 2019 Semen Market Survey, both sexed dairy and beef semen sales increased year-on-year in 2019 by 12.8 per cent and 12.1pc, respectively.
Sexed semen recently tipped over the 200,000 unit mark for the first time, representing more than 10pc of semen sold domestically. The number of beef semen sold increased to 280,539 units. NHIA chief executive officer Stephen Carroll said he expected to see the growth continue.
"If you look at sexed semen and beef semen sales together, I think it highlights that Australian breeders are working smarter," he said.
With the current strong export market many breeders are also using sexed semen around the mid-point of their herds as well, Mr Carroll said. "And don't forget that animal welfare, particularly in relation to bobby calves, is also a driver," he said.
"With what I would call more targeted breeding, the increase in beef semen sales is to be expected. Sexed semen top end, beef semen bottom end is a breeding strategy that works for many people.
"At the other end of the supply chain there is an increasing demand for dairy-beef cross animals and meat which is reflected in these figures.
Dairy participants in the 2019 survey included; ABS Australia, Agrigene, Alta Genetics, Genetics Australia, LIC/CRV, Semex, ST Genetics Australia, Total Livestock Genetics (TLG), Viking Genetics and World Wide Sires, with all but CRV and Viking Genetics also contributing to analysis of beef semen sales.
TLG sales manager Paul Douglas, Vic, said there had been a lot of interest around sexed semen.
"Sexed semen has done a good job within herds that have realised they've had options," he said.
"One being to breed a lot a heifers using sexed dairy semen, or two attributing part of the herd to beef. It is just starting to be engaged in the commercial market, with interest in predominately Angus, Speckle Park as a newer breed, and Limousin in Jersey programs."
Mr Douglas believed there was opportunity for the use of sexed semen in sheep and beef sectors too during the re-build of the national herd.
Total semen sales have declined 10.9pc to 1,957,221 doses from the record 2,196,456 units sold in 2018.
Commenting on the total sales trend, Mr Carroll said external factors could be responsible for the decline.
"The downturn in the market, the drought and the knock on effect on water and fodder costs has had a significant impact on the number of dairy cows being joined," Mr Carroll said.
"Factor these higher input costs alongside the declining national dairy herd and I don't think the headline figures are a surprise."
Export sales increased by 7.8pc to 284,658 units. They have now increased year-on-year from a low of 127,998 doses in 2016 to 284,658 in the period covered by the latest NHIA survey.
"Since 2015/2016 there has been a 122.3pc increase in export sales of Australian semen," Mr Carroll said. "We are certainly becoming a more significant player in the international market, with the long-term investment approach of our export focused on members starting to pay dividends."