New UK-first bovine semen processing lab opened

A cutting-edge semen processing lab in Cumbria opened on Monday (September 16) will harness the same technology used for human genetics in a first for the industry.

The lab will complement Scawfell Genetics’ long-standing bull stud and recently opened semen storage and distribution facilities.

The new system from IMT International currently uses the same technology used in human fertility treatments.

New technology

It uses an automated system designed to eliminate product waste during straw filling and also provides stringent traceability with a barcode system.

The idea is that the system eliminates human error in semen handling and therefore avoids a batch being incorrectly labelled.

As a result, Scawfell Genetics will not charge for any semen discarded in the process. The new system also allows semen analysis at the touch of a button.

The straws themselves are also designed with a colour-changing bung to indicate that the straw has been correctly filled and sealed.

James Hazard, Scawfell Genetics managing director explained: “At any given point a farmer can ask a question and we can tell them exactly when, where, how and by who each process occurred.”

The facility is owned by one of just two firms in the UK to offer third-party semen processing, storage and distribution.

Three of the firm’s four directors are currently involved in farming directly, while the fourth is a farmer-turned-consultant.

Better choice

Hazard added: “We wanted to introduce the highest level of quality management system possible and the IMT system now forms a crucial part of our defences to prevent against potential errors.

“The new system also saves a huge amount of staff time and costs by automatically capturing data required and integrates with all our other systems, giving us the ability to report and audit that data in seconds across all procedures from on-farm collection, through semen processing and testing, all the way to quarantine, the semen store and delivery.”

John Black, business development director, said: “For too long, breeders haven’t had a choice, choice simply leads to better value in any industry.

“This coupled with utilising the most advanced equipment available allows us to raise standards in quality and transparency across all aspects of the genetics process which we are confident our breeders will find useful.”