Total semen sales of beef sires remained relatively stable from 1997 to 1998, according to the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB). Over 900,000 units of beef semen were sold in the U.S. in '98, a 1% decrease in units sold in '97.

However, custom frozen semen production showed a 9.9% increase from the year previous and accounted for more than 2 million units. Custom frozen semen, which is returned to the individual bull owner, is used within herd and is also sold domestically and internationally.

This growing popularity in custom activity is a sign that more producers are buying semen from individual producers, says Gordon Doak, NAAB president. "We don't feel the use of artificial insemination (AI) is decreasing, producers may just be getting their semen from a different source." Doak estimates 6-7% of the beef population is using AI.

Among NAAB members, the top four breeds for the number of units sold within the U.S. were: Angus at 598,260 units (down 0.07%); Simmental at 83,352 (down 3.46%); Red Angus at 69,259 (up 5.38%); and Polled Hereford 52,284 (down 7.44%).

Beef semen export sales also remained stable, showing only a 2% decrease in the number of units sold in 1998 compared to 1997. That's on the heels of a 98% increase in export sales from 1996 to 1997 from 438,430 units to 869,306 units.

Red Angus, the export sales leader, reported a 20.91% increase, selling 361,165 units abroad. Of the other top eight breeds for export semen sales, only Brahman and Polled Hereford reported increases of 22.81% and 4.69%, respectively.

Argentina and Brazil are the leading export countries for U.S. beef genetics, Doak says.