Danish Dairy Farmers' Acceptance of and Willingness to Use Semen from Bulls Produced by Means of in Vitro Embryo Production and Genomic Selection
By T.B. Lund, C. Gamborg, J. Secher, and P. Sandøe (2021)
Journal of Dairy Science
A novel technology combining in vitro production and genomic embryo selection is currently under development in dairy cattle breeding. Adoption of this technology will probably accelerate genetic progress toward the main breeding goals of economic interest, as well as allow selection for traits of societal concern such as decreased methane emissions and improved animal welfare. However, dairy farmers, and especially organic farmers, could find the technology morally questionable and reject its use. This cross-sectional study surveyed Danish dairy farmers' general acceptance of the combined technology and their reported likelihood of using semen produced with it. Drawing on diffusion theory, a questionnaire was developed to examine the way farmers discover and communicate about new technological breeding options, and to measure the factors which predict acceptance and likelihood of adopting the technology. The questionnaire was sent to a randomly selected sample of organic and conventional dairy farmers in Denmark, and 85 organic and 71 conventional farmers (41% response rate) completed it. Seventy-six percent of farmers reported that they would be likely to use semen from bulls derived from the technology. A majority (61%) also found the technology acceptable, but many (33%) were unsure or undecided. Most farmers saw the technology as beneficial, but ethical reservations were aired by around a fifth of the farmers. There were no differences between organic and conventional farmers in likelihood of using, perceived utility, and ethical reservations about the technology. Self-reported idealistic organic farmers showed lower acceptance of the technology, but reported similar likelihood of using semen produced by it. Young farmers (20–39 yr) exhibited higher acceptance of the technology. Larger producers (in terms of number of cows) were more likely to report that they will use and accept the technology. We conclude that it is likely that semen from the technology combining in vitro production and genomic selection would be widely used by both organic and conventional farmers provided that costs can be kept low, and that there are advantages in terms of achieving breeding goals. Structural developments, growth in size of dairy farms, acceptance by young farmers, and the fact that economic incentives (and even ethical arguments) seem to favor the technology all point to this conclusion.