Integrating emerging technologies
Reproductive biotechnology

 Semen sexing technology

Although the biological mechanisms determining the sex of progeny have been known for quite some time, only recent application of certain modern biotechnologies has made it possible to develop a large-scale system to separate male from female sperm.

The most effective sexing technology at this time is flow cytometry. This method separates female sperm (X) from male sperm (Y) on the basis of their respective weights, male sperm being heavier (4%) as it contains a larger amount of DNA.

Once dyed and then oriented in a very fine tube, spermatozoa pass one by one through a lazer beam: the sensor determines the quantity of DNA present and the drops containing spermatozoa are electrically charged according to the result. The computer can interpret 30,000 pieces of data per second. As they cross through a magnetic field, the drops are then oriented according to their type: male, female or reject (dead or deficient spermatozoa).

However, their fertility level being lower (lesser concentration and viability of spermatozoa) than that of standard straws, sexed semen straws are to be implemented primarily on the most fertile heifers and cows.

 Using sexed semen to secure herd sustainability

Using sexed semen makes it possible to choose the calf’s sex. This makes it possible to get the maximum potential out of your genetic investments: with sexed semen, it is easy to breed more females, and therefore guarantee top-quality herd renewal.

This technology makes it possible to leverage genetic progress, but also change breeds with a minimum amount of new specimen purchases, improve meat quality (cross-breeding of part of the herd), sell springing heifers, etc.

In order to make these technological advancements available to livestock breeders, France has set up a semen sexing platform. This platform incorporates the latest scientific breakthroughs in the field and is headed by the UMOTEST selection business. The platform exploits sexing Technology to deliver 90% -guaranteed female-sexed semen (90 female calves for every 100).

Thanks to the reliability of the sexing platform, the Montbéliard breed, along with the selection businesses devoted to other French breeds have a broad range of sexed semen on offer from a wide variety of stud bulls.

This is yet another asset of the French offering for breeders looking for world-class genetics to inseminate their best heifers and guarantee impeccable-quality replacement herds.

 Saving time with embryo transfer techniques

While AI has made it possible to produce and widely disseminate substantial genetic progress since the 1960s, embryo transfer has in the mean time become a complementary technique that is implemented and optimized by French selection businesses.

Embryo transfer consists in collecting embryos from a so-called donor cow, control-checking them and then individually implanting them in so-called recipient cows. By bringing many embryos from the most remarkable cows to term, this method makes it possible to increase their progeny.

Both proven technology and the economic significance it holds make France a world leader in the field: close to 30,000 embryos were transferred in 2010, i.e. approximately 40% of European transfers.

For livestock breeders using French genetics, this leadership position provides easy access to:

  • Genetic material produced by breeding the best bulls with the best heifers, as embryo transfer makes it possible to combine both male and female genetic improvement pathways.
  • An exceptional veterinary health guarantee. At the age of 6 to 7 days, the embryo is protected by the zona pellucida, a barrier that is impassable to pathogens. From a veterinary health standpoint, embryo transfer is the safest means to disseminate genetic material across farms, countries or continents.

Thanks to the combined embryo offerings of the various French cattle, sheep and goat breed selection companies, all livestock breeders can thus safely and quickly create a herd with top-quality genetics, or develop new livestock lines on their farms.


Key figures

  • 1 "Sexing technologies" platform in France
  • A 90 %-guaranteed pro-heifer sexed semen offer
  • 29 100 embryo transfers in 2010