Normally, beef producers can expect about half of their calves to be bulls, and half heifers. However, when Galen Fink weaned a group of 33 calves this fall, he had 31 bulls and 2 heifers.
Two years ago, Fink started using gender-sorted semen, which determines the gender of the calf.
"It gives us another 40% bulls, rather than having 50% heifers and 50% bulls," Fink notes. "When you go out and you see that many more bulls, it really brings the big picture into perspective."
Gender-sorted semen pays off when combined with embryo transfer programs. Fink hasn't seen a significant decrease in transferable embryos per flush compared to conventional semen. In 2012, he saw conception rates from 35% to 73% with frozen and fresh embryos. With an embryo transfer program and superovulation, more eggs are available for fertilization, and with sexed semen, 90% of the embryos will likely be the desired gender. This way, he can get multiple bull calves from several sires a year.
This makes a big difference with 1,000 to 1,200 embryos implanted each year.
Advantages for producers
Gender-sorted semen is also beneficial for Fink's customers, who can buy groups of brothers with the same genetics and matching traits. They can buy from different bloodlines and different breeds, Angus, Charolais and cross for different options.
"Some might want bulls for breeding to virgin heifers, so they want lighter birth weights. Somebody else might want a bull for producing cows. Another might want bulls for carcass traits," Fink says. "It's hard to get that all together in one perfect bull to use."
When buying from a bull selected from a catalog, it usually costs about $10 to $15 more per straw. But there is an advantage for seedstock operations or any producers who need more of one gender.
"It is more expensive to do it, but so far, having more bulls to work with instead of heifers has really simplified our program," Fink says. "If there are 90% bulls, and I would expect there to be, it would be worth it, because we can sell a yearling bull for more than we can a heifer. From our standpoint, that's where the cost difference pays off."
Find more information on Fink's genetic program and how gender-sorted semen fits, read the November Kansas Farmer.