Use of sexed semen and its effect on conception rate, calf sex, dystocia, and stillbirth of Holsteins in the United States

J Dairy Sci. 2010 Aug;93(8):3880-90. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2781.


Use of sexed semen for artificial insemination of US Holstein heifers (1.3 million breedings) and cows (10.8 million breedings) in Dairy Herd Improvement herds was characterized by breeding year, parity, service number, region, herd size, and herd milk yield. Sexed semen was used for 1.4, 9.5, and 17.8% of all reported breedings for 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively, for heifers, and for 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4%, respectively, for cows. For 2008 sexed semen breedings, 80.5 and 68.6% of use was for first services of heifers and cows, respectively. For cows, 63.1% of 2008 sexed semen use was for first parity. Mean sexed semen use within herd was the greatest for heifers in the Southwest (36.2%) and for cows in the Mideast (1.3%). Mean sexed semen use increased for heifers but changed little for cows as either herd size or herd mean milk yield increased. Availability of sexed semen was examined for Holstein bulls in active AI service; of 700 bulls born after 1993, 37% had sexed semen marketed by mid August 2009. Active AI bulls with marketed sexed semen were superior to average active AI bulls for evaluations of yield traits, productive life, somatic cell score, daughter pregnancy rate, service-sire calving ease, service-sire stillbirth, final score, sire conception rate, and lifetime net merit. The effect of sexed semen use on conception rate, calf sex, dystocia, and stillbirth also was examined for heifers and cows. Mean conception rate for heifers was 56% for conventional and 39% for sexed semen; corresponding conception rates for cows were 30 and 25%. For single births from sexed semen breedings, around 90% were female. Dystocia and stillbirth were more frequent for heifers (6.0 and 10.4%, respectively, for conventional semen; 4.3 and 11.3%, respectively, for sexed semen) than for cows (2.5 and 3.6%, respectively, for conventional semen; 0.9 and 2.7%, respectively, for sexed semen). Difficult births declined by 28% for heifers and 64% for cows with sexed semen use. Stillbirths were more prevalent for twin births except for sexed semen heifer breedings. Stillbirths of single male calves of heifers were more frequent for breedings with sexed semen (15.6%) than conventional semen (10.8%); a comparable difference was not observed for cows, for which stillbirth frequency of single male calves even decreased (2.6 vs. 3.6%). Overall stillbirth frequency was reduced by sexed semen use for cows but not for heifers.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Dairying / methods
  • Dystocia / veterinary
  • Female
  • Insemination, Artificial / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Semen / physiology*
  • Sex Preselection / veterinary*
  • Stillbirth / veterinary
  • United States