The commitment by cattle breeding company, Cogent to British agriculture moved up a gear this month when the company’s founder and owner, the Duke of Westminster, officially opened a new extension to Beachin Stud, its Cheshire-based bull housing facility.
Duke of Westminster (right) and Stuart Boothman
The new development increases the unit’s capacity to 166 head of individually housed mature bulls, and the stud now becomes the largest unit of its kind in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe.
The extension itself comprises 44 pens which will be used to house both beef and dairy sires, with the growing business of custom semen collection partly fuelling the facility’s expansion.
“The bulls which are moving into this facility have a range of owners,” said Stuart Boothman, Cogent’s operations manager, who oversees the running of the stud. “Apart from those that are on collection for Cogent as part of Visions - the company’s young sire progeny testing scheme - there are many from North American and other international AI companies who buy bulls in Europe and want to house them in the UK, and there are also many from British farmers.
“If you take, for example, some of the beef bulls that sell for very high prices, the only way their owners will return their investment is if the bulls come for collection. These bulls frequently come to Cogent, including, most recently, two Limousins which made 55,000gns and 30,000gns at auction,” said Mr Boothman.
The fact that the semen sexing facilities on the premises of the stud are also widely considered to be the most advanced in the world, also gives the Beachin facility an edge.
“This particularly attracts AI companies and individual breeders to bring dairy sires to the premises, where the semen they produce can go straight through the sexing procedure, significantly increasing the chance of producing a heifer calf,” he said.
Cogent stud extension
The new facility - housed in a 77m x 22m clear-span building - has been modelled on and slightly adapted from Cogent’s previous successful extension and features deep-bedded straw and spacious, light and airy pens for optimal animal comfort.
Welfare continues to be a high priority and bulls have regular access to a large central sand play area which features 18 inch deep sand and a wide embedded tree trunk for scratching and rubbing.
“This provides a safe environment in which the bulls can stretch their muscles and exercise,” said Mr Boothman. “It also adds interest to their day and definitely improves the overall health and libido of the bulls and prolongs their collection life.”
A further attraction is that semen collected from any bull on the stud will qualify for export, potentially giving an important fillip to international trade in genetics from Britain.
“This represents a significant tranche of investment for Cogent,” said Hugh Pocock, the company’s sales and genetics manager. “But it also represents the creation of a strong base for the cattle genetics industry in the UK and we are confident the extended facility will prove an added attraction for international customers when considering British genetics.”
Cogent was founded by the Duke of Westminster in 1995, with the aim of progeny testing bulls, primarily for use in the dairy industry, and has grown to become the UK’s largest stud, currently testing around 75 bulls a year. In the late 1990s, the company invested heavily in semen sexing technology and has since gone on to develop expertise and pioneer processes in this field which have led to levels of product purity which are unmatched anywhere else in the world. Cogent was the first breeding company in the world to offer sexed semen commercially to the cattle farming industry and today, around 30 per cent of all the semen the company sells is sexed. With each successful conception having at least a 90 per cent chance of producing a female calf, the product provides a significant commercial advantage to its dairy farmer users. Today, bull semen sexed at the Cogent facility is exported to 30 countries worldwide and its semen sexing service is offered to other breeding companies both in the UK and overseas, as well as directly to its own farmer customers. In 2009, Cogent celebrates 10 years of supplying sexed semen to the farming industry.
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