Record high cattle prices and improved seasonal conditions have sent demand for fresh and frozen bull semen soaring to unprecedented levels.
Industry players say demand is particularly high for sexed semen, which involves the processing of semen into gender and enables producers to conduct selective breeding.
Genetics Australia CEO Anthony Shelly said he’s never seen so much demand for quality semen among commercial and stud breeders in both the Australian dairy and beef industries.
“At the moment demand for semen is probably at an all-time high.
“Demand for beef genetics is unprecedented in WA at the moment and dairy is also very strong.
“There’s no doubt, be it dairy or beef, when you’re seeing such strong prices in the sale yards, the opportunity to take advantage some would say ‘hey well I’m motivated to breed quicker and more efficiently’.”
Prices prompt semen spike
Mr Shelly said improvements in the efficiency of methods such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, had also seen more farmers utilise the technology, particularly sexed semen.
“Sexed semen has been available commercially in Australia for about 12-13 years and there’s no doubt the efficiency has improved dramatically over that time,” he said.
“What we’re seeing is farmers starting to use that technology at a very high level to try and ensure they’re getting the best benefit.
“Just in the last 12 months the use of sexed semen has gone from 10 per cent to 15 pc in the national dairy herd and that’s significant.”
Mr Shelly said Wagyu and Angus semen was in highest demand.
Exploding export demand
Neel Ganesan is laboratory manager at ST Genetics Australia, based in Victoria.
He said demand for Australian genetics from overseas buyers was also hot.
“There has been a huge spike in export semen sales especially to EU and the North American market,” he said. “That’s because of the quality bulls that are here, most of these customers based in overseas locations they want Australian genetics.”
“And because we have genomic technology now, they’re seeing the value in the cattle here in Australia.”
Meanwhile, Mr Shelly said Genetics Australia was seeing strong demand out of China, Pakistan and South America.
Seizing the opportunity
Dairy farmer Tony Angi, based at Yarloop in WA’s South West, has a herd of 1,000 Holstein heifers.
While he has long focused on genetics, Mr Angi said very healthy prices for Holstein export heifers had enabled him to ramp up selective genetics.
“Our milk price in WA is probably not the best at the moment,” he said.
“The prices [for export dairy heifers] have never been like this and in the last two years it’s made me confident to use [sexed semen] more heavily than in the past…we want to take advantage of the export prices.
“To be able to reinvest and sell export heifers is an important part of our cashflow.”
Mercado managing director Robert Hermann said it is not surprising cattle farmers were reinvesting in genetics given favorable market conditions.
“The Western Young Cattle Indicator, which is a sort of benchmark of prices, is at an all-time record high of 967 cents,” he said.
“To put that in perspective, this time last year it was at 700c but going back two years, it was at 500c, so it’s almost doubled in two years.
“Australian farmers are really progressive and would see these windfall cattle prices and record low numbers as an opportunity to ramp up the quality of their herds.
“Producers are also making a statement that they’re confident about the industry.”