Dairy farmers in Northern Ireland are confirming high conception rates in cows and heifers that are due to calve later in the autumn.

This is despite issues relating to silage quality on many farms.

Semex sales manager for Northern Ireland, John Berry commented: “Milk producers have been breeding to improve the inherent fertility of their stock for the past decade and more. And they are now seeing the benefits of this investment.”

“Sexed semen is now the universal go-to option when dairy farmers sit down and work through their annual breeding programmes.

“The fact that farmers are getting such positive results from sexed straws that are used on a DIY basis is further proof of the improved fertility standards now being achieved across the dairy sector.

“A Semex client recently inseminated 50 dairy heifers with sexed semen. The confirmed conception rate was 100%.”

Berry explained that this was a “staggering” result, given that many of the silages made in 2023 were of a poor enough standard.

“Many farmers are also reporting significant challenges with mycotoxins contamination of forages at the present time,” he continued.

“But despite all these issues, exceptionally high conception rates are being reported.

“This reflects the very basic fact that a consistent investment in proven genetics will deliver a more than worthwhile return at farm level.”


One very obvious impact of using sexed semen on a widespread basis is the opportunity presented to use greater levels of proven AI beef sires on dairy cows.

“Many of our clients with a strong commitment to autumn calving switch to beef bulls at this time of the year,” Berry added.

“The reality is that they have sufficient replacement heifers coming through the system to meet their overall needs, from a milk production perspective.”

Looking to the future, the Semex representative believes that dairy farmers in Northern Ireland will commit to breeding black and white cows of a somewhat smaller stature.

He explained: “Smaller, more robust cows are capable of thriving in a high feed environment. They are also inherently healthier than their larger framed counterparts,” he explained.

“But there is also a role for Holstein-bred animals to produce more milk from grazed grass.”

Dairy cows in Northern Ireland are currently averaging 9,000L of milk per lactation. Significantly, John Berry believes this figure could start to rise over the coming years.