The cost-benefit of genomic testing of heifers and using sexed semen in pasture-based dairy herds Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent improvements in dairy cow fertility and female reproductive technologies offer an opportunity to apply greater selection pressure to females. This means there may be greater incentive to obtain genomic breeding values for females. We modeled the impact of changes to key parameters on the net benefit from genomic testing of heifer calves with and without usage of sexed semen. This paper builds on earlier cost-benefit studies but uses parameters relevant to pasture-based systems. A deterministic model was used to evaluate the effect on net benefit due to changes in (1) reproduction rate, (2) genomic test costs, (3) availability of parent-derived breeding values (EBVPA), and (4) replacement rate. When the use of sexed semen was included, we also considered (1) the proportion of heifers and cows mated to sexed semen, (2) decreases in conception rate in inseminations with sexed semen, and (3) the marginal return for surplus heifers. Scenarios with lower replacement rates and no availability of EBVPA had the largest net benefits. Under current Australian parameters, the net benefit of genomic testing realized over the lifetime of genotyped heifers is expected to range from A$204 to A$1,124 per 100 cows for a herd with median reproductive performance. The cost of a genomic test, a perceived barrier to many farmers, had only a small effect on net benefit. Genomic testing alone was always more profitable than using sexed semen and genomic testing together if the only benefit considered was increased genetic gain in heifer replacements. When other benefits (i.e., the higher sale price of a surplus heifer compared with a male calf) were considered, there were combinations of parameters where net benefit from using sexed semen and genomic testing was higher than the equivalent scenario with genomic testing only. Using sexed semen alongside genomic testing is most likely to be profitable when (1) used in heifers, (2) the marginal return for selling surplus heifers (sale price minus rearing costs) is greater than A$400, and (3) conception rates of no more than 10 percentage points lower than those achieved using conventional semen can be realized. Net benefit was highly dependent on the marginal return. Demonstrating that the initial investment in genomic testing can be recouped within the lifetime of the heifers tested may assist in the development of extension messages to explain the value of genomic testing females at the herd level.

publication date

  • 2018