AI Services is planning for a major redevelopment of its bull stud and laboratories in Co Antrim, the company’s chief executive Larry Burke has announced.

“We are going to make a very large investment in modernising our facilities in Ballycraigy. We have committed to it and are a long way down the road to getting it under way,” he said.

Speaking to reporters last week, Burke said that buildings will be demolished and rebuilt on a phased basis, as the stud needs to remain operational throughout the process. The new site will have a similar capacity as the existing facilities, which can hold up to 90 bulls. However, Burke said new buildings were needed to make the facility more modern and labour efficient.

“We are looking at a stud that is 50 plus years old. We intend to build something that will sustain us for that length of time into the future. We haven’t got our full planning approval just yet, but we are confident that we will get it in the near future,” he told the Guild of Agricultural Journalists.

Burke explained that the existing laboratory will be replaced with “a totally new facility”, which will have “new technology and equipment”.

He also suggested that equipment for sexing semen could be installed in Ballycraigy, which is something that is not currently available in NI: “What the market demands, we will rise to. We are not ruling anything out.”

The use of sexed semen on local farms has increased rapidly in recent years, with Burke stating that over 85% of all dairy straws used in NI are now sexed.

“This is just the beginning of the advancement of technology in this space and AI Services will be at the forefront in the delivery of this to our customers,” he said.

Genetics database will be ‘huge resource’

A long-awaited livestock genetics database will be “a huge resource” for NI farmers, according to AI Services chief executive Larry Burke.

The new programme is to be delivered by an industry led body, known as Sustainable Ruminant Genetics, in partnership with DAERA.

Burke said performance recording and genotyping will allow farmers to make better breeding decisions and pointed to the experience from the Republic of Ireland where a well-established programme is in place.

“In the south, there was a certain amount of resistance to it at the start, but everyone now sees the value of having that information available to them,” he said.

BDG follow on

Burke also confirmed that AI Services is planning to bid for contracts that will be made available for delivering aspects of new agricultural policy in NI.

The company is currently involved with CAFRE in delivering the Business Development Group scheme, although this is set to end in the spring.

“We will be actively tendering for all of the various programmes that will be available. It is a significant and important part of what our group does,” Burke said.