Bulls will have less work to do this mating season as dairy farmers consider making greater use of artificial breeding to combat Mycoplasma bovis.
The countries largest supplier of bull semen, LIC, says more farmers have indicated they will be going “no bull” this year. Instead they will use artificial breeding for the whole herd, rather than the usual practice of following up with natural mating.
LIC has introduced a daily testing regime as part of a raft of new measures costing almost $800,000 to help protect against the M. bovis outbreak this mating season.
Each semen collection from LIC’s bulls, which artificially inseminate up to 80 per cent of the national dairy herd, will be tested for M. bovis, with results confirmed before semen is distributed to farmers.
In a phased eradication costing $886 million, the Government will cull about 150,000 cattle in an attempt to rid the country of the Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease which can cause untreatable mastitis, abortion and arthritis in cows. The disease is harmless to humans and is not transmitted through meat or milk.
M. bovis was spread from animal to animal through close contact and bodily fluids. Calves can be infected through drinking milk from infected cows.
LIC chief executive Wayne McNee said that while MPI states the risk of transmitting M. bovis from semen was extremely low, it was not taking anything for granted.
“Based on our testing and strict animal management to date, we’re confident our bulls are clear from M. bovis. We have tested over 5000 samples from our bulls dating back to January 2017, and the disease has not been detected.
“However, we know the risk of infection is a still a top concern for farmers and we want to take all measures possible to safeguard our bulls and help protect the national herd.”
The PCR test was highly sensitive and will detect if M. bovis was present in the semen.
LIC was investing close to $800,000 in changes to their business to effectively manage any risk of transmission of M. bovis. The farmer-owned co-operative had made the decision to absorb the cost in order to avoid increasing prices for farmers this season.
The new daily testing regime will be implemented for the peak mating season when LIC artificial breeding technicians inseminate more than 100,000 cows per day.
From September through to Christmas, LIC collects semen from its elite bulls seven days a week and processes up to five million fresh semen straws for artificial insemination.
The daily semen testing complements LIC’s recent introduction of an additional antibiotic into the semen diluent in an effort to further reduce the risk of transmitting M. bovis via semen.
Switching to all artificial breeding for the whole mating period could be beneficial for a number of reasons, however, it may not be suited to everyone, McNee said. Cow reproductive performance needed to be at national average or higher, including a six-week in-calf rate above 65 per cent.