3 August 2001

AIstation closed down

BRITAINs first AI station, the Venton bull stud owned by the Dartington Cattle Breeding Trust in Devon, is to be closed and sold in lots.

UK Genetics boss Rob Wills, who says the stud is "a vital national resource" hopes to assemble a consortium to buy part of it and lease it to a company that will run it.

He added that Dartington was one of only four studs in Britain. If closed it would leave only Cogent in Cheshire, Genus (used only for its own bulls), and a small stud which opened on Feb 1 this year at Longtown in Cumbria.

"Foot-and-mouth has focussed attention on a number of features of the current British livestock industry and most of them are powerful reasons for keeping the Dartington stud in business as a semen collection centre – biosecurity, the need to reduce distances travelled by livestock, and above all the need to safeguard the gene pools of all our breeds, including the rare ones," said Mr Wills.

Roger Philp, chairman of the trustees, added: "We have been told by our professional adviser that we cannot justify the costs of keeping the stud going. Dartington was set up in the mid-1940s to progeny-test bulls and to provide semen at a reasonable price. But in recent years the bans on semen exports because of BSE and now foot-and-mouth, and the relatively small size of the stud have all worked against it. We are very sorry to have to sell it and we are doing the best we can for our very loyal staff."

However, the trust will continue to be involved in the cattle industry through its sponsorship of relevant research by universities, colleges and other centres such as Kingshay, as well as a Nuffield scholarship. Proceeds from the sale of the stud will be added to the trusts funds. "We want to see the money going back in some way to farming in this area," said Mr Philp.

South Devon agents Luscombe Maye, of South Brent, will handle the sale of the stud this autumn.