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The Israeli Breeding Program

SION – Israeli Artificial Insemination & Breeding Company was founded in 2001 with the merger of the A.I cooperatives ‘On’ and ‘Hasherut’. SION is in charge of 95% of all of the inseminations in the country, thereby, with routine inseminations, SION is performing the actual breeding program of the Israeli dairy farms.


SION employs 50 AI technicians. Currently, 85% of dairy herds are involved in the DHI system. The 760 dairy farms are divided into 35 insemination districts, and the remaining twelve technicians work as substitutes.

Our mating program is carefully constructed in accordance with the policy of the National Breeding Committee, based on the Israeli Breeding Index.

SION ‘s main goal is to promote the genetics of the Israeli dairy farms, according to the “Local Bulls’ Table”.
While creating the breeding program, the dairy farmers are welcomed to give their individual input, and with our advice, they can make the best genetic decisions for their farm. Such a mating program, that is capable of taking into account the genetic objectives of each herd, is unique to the Israeli system, and it operates successfully thanks to the computerized mating program (a module of “NOA”, developed by ICBA) used by most of the farmers. This mating program enables the dairy farmers to select the bulls by themselves, while taking into consideration the mating results.

The genetic progress, of all the Israeli herds, is tested biannually, with full co-operation of the dairy farmers. We check every dairy farm’s mating program, on all aspects of inbreeding, genetic diseases, the percentages of the different bulls used in the herd, and the recommended genetic traits for the inseminated cows.

During 2014, the conception rate of first inseminations in heifers, first lactation and multiparous cows were 62%, 43% and 32%, respectively. These results, together with an increase of milk volume, lead to a decrease in the number of inseminations. Part of this positive tendency is due to the genetic planning carried out by the dairy farms.


SION currently houses 250 bulls located in three different sites. Approximately 50 young bulls are tested annually, some of which are Israeli bloodlines and others North American, Scandinavian and European strains.

Semen from approximately 25 proven bulls is available to the Israeli dairy farmers for general service. The elite dams, which are owned by the dairy farmers and kept at the farms, are inseminated by SION with some of the highest ranked bulls in the world, based on Interbull evaluations, or with the best local bulls. Most are proven bulls with evaluations based on daughter production records, and the rest are high pedigree index or “promising” young bulls.

Male calves, born from those inseminations, are bought by SION at the age of one week. Semen collection starts when the bulls are 14 months old. When the bulls are 16 months old, their semen is used to inseminate approximately 1,000 first-parity cows in DHI herds. This process is generally completed within three months. Semen from the young bulls is collected biweekly during a period of 18 months, and stored in the semen bank. This system ensures a large semen bank, for each bull, that can be used immediately after the bull is approved for general use at the age of five years, even if the bull is unable to produce semen at a later age.

Genetic evaluations are performed biannually. Most of the semen used in Israel is taken from the local bulls’ table, while we also use a small percent of imported semen for creating new bloodlines and for the inseminations of our elite cows, the majority being proven bulls with evaluations based on daughter-production records and the rest are high-pedigree young bulls.
Each year, approximately 420,000 inseminations are performed in Israel, 93% with local semen of the Israeli Holstein breed.
The Israeli breeding program encourages the extensive use of young bulls with outstanding genetic value based on pedigree. These bulls are used for general service and perform 3-5 times more inseminations than the regular young bulls. Wide use of these bulls increases the mean breeding value of the national population. In addition, the evaluations of these bulls at the age of five years will have higher reliability due to the greater number of daughter records. Genetic evaluations are computed biannually, and the status of the bulls and cows are re-evaluated after each new genetic evaluation.

Bulls and cows are ranked by the Israeli Selection Index PD11.

In 2013 Sion initiated a project with CRV of the Netherlands for joint genomic evaluations of bulls, cows, and calves based on the Illumina 54K BeadChip.  Results of extensive evaluations for ten traits indicate that reliabilities of genomic evaluations of young bulls are increased to 55-60% relative to parent averages for the Israeli breeding index. Routine genomic evaluations of young bulls have been implemented since the beginning of 2015.


SION ‘s semen lab performs each year various trials in order to improve the fertility of the bulls’ semen. Lately we conducted a progressive motility semen trial using our MES (Medical Electronic System) equipment. In light of these results, we have increased the number of cells in each dose, in order that it will contain sufficient progressive motile cells, after the post-thawing procedure. We are currently testing the influence of nutrition with fatty-acids on the quality of the semen

Insemination information is recorded by the technicians on hand-held computer terminals. This system allows for error-free transfer of data to the central herd book computer, and prevents mating of closely related animals. The technician first enters the details of the proposed mating. The proposal is rejected if the inbreeding coefficient is greater than 3.125% (calculated 3 generations).

The Israeli dairy cattle population has the highest average of milk and milk solids production in the world, despite the fact that dairy production conditions are sub-optimal due to heat stress in most areas during most of the year. Israeli bulls transmit outstanding genetic ability for milk yield and milk components, and they excel in fertility, longevity and udder health traits.

Heat stress during the Israeli hot season has a highly negative effect on dairy production. Great efforts have been made to install and implement technologies that will reduce heat stress. Dairy farms that implement appropriate methods for cooling the herd have reached, during the summer, milk-production rates that exceed winter levels.

The Israeli cows are the highest production cows in the world, averaging in 2017 12,460 Kg milk with 3.76% fat and 3.23% protein. This impressive achievement is the outcome of the long-term cooperation among farmers, The Israel dairy Board, SION, Israeli Cattle Breeders Association, Agricultural Research Organization, and the Ministry of Agriculture Extension Service (Sha’ham).

SION’s 5 year Breeding Program

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