Collaborative confidence, independent service, mutual benefits
Innovative approach to AI supply aims to improve efficiency and producer choice
This is Long Meadow, flagship stud for new company Klasse AI. It’s one of the most technically advanced AI centres in Europe and also a fundamental part of Rattlerow Farms’ latest venture – to expand its AI business and provide UK pig producers with a more independent and flexible route to a wide range of world class genetics.
This innovative enterprise marks another milestone for Rattlerow, as Klasse will be managed as an independent company. As such it will produce, process and market semen from a range of advanced damline and terminal sires selected from various breeding pyramids.
Long Meadow’s expansion programme alone has cost approximately £300,000 and once operating at full capacity, this stud will be able to produce in excess of 6500 doses of semen a week.
While a key aim is to deliver producers more choice and greater flexibility when choosing their genetics, this new venture also demonstrates a commitment to improve efficiency in the UK’s AI and semen supply chain.
Ian Gillies, Rattlerow’s AI and Genetics Manager explains:
“Most producers do want more flexibility when choosing AI and suppliers need to embrace this. We’ve wanted to take our AI business up a gear for some time and introducing this collaborative concept to the UK is a logical step as it will give pig producers a much wider choice of genetics.”
Sister company Klasse KI, located in the Netherlands, produces and distributes semen from a number of recognised sire lines, supplied from various breeders. It is the largest independent AI stud in Holland and has a collective customer base totaling a sow population that exceeds the UK national herd. The stud also manages the largest selection of DanAvl dam line boars outside Denmark. Klasse AI hopes to follow its lead here in the UK, and while customer choice and satisfaction remain priorities, the more collaborative nature of its business is also likely to increase volume semen sales.
“The target is for our products to deliver exceptional performance on farm. We operate extremely high standards and have high expectations throughout our production chain. Our AI can, and does, achieve exceptional results…”
A extensive expansion programme at Long Meadow began earlier this year and is now complete. The stud is now home to a range of elite sires from Rattlerow’s own nucleus and from a selection of other breeders. A number of DanAvl boars, selected from its Danish nucleus, are about to join the stud once they have successfully completed Klasse’s rigorous, veterinary-led health screening programme and isolation process. These boars, like their Rattlerow counterparts, have been selected by Klasse AI because of their superior breeding values and exceptional performance statistics for growth rate, muscle mass, FCR and prolificacy. They also satisfy stringent criteria for strength, fitness and suitability for stud work.
As Ian Gillies explains, genetic ability is not enough when selecting stud boars, sires must also be robust with good leg strength and conformation and physical soundness.
“Our stud boars must be reproductively correct but also fit and strong with a keen working temperament. Such qualities are as important as outstanding performance traits,” he adds.
Once boars have satisfied all isolation and testing procedures they are move into Long Meadow’s purpose built, fully air conditioned boar accommodation and semen collection unit.
Rattlerow’s own engineering and construction team, led by joint MD Adrian Lawson, designed and built the unit. Fabrication specialist Dan Smith has had an integral role developing the system, working closely with Ian Gillies and Alan Moore, Klasse Stud Manager, to produce a custom-designed handling system. The layout enables safe, stress-free boar movements to and from the collection areas – a feature appreciated by both people and pigs.
Long Meadow’s new boar accommodation and semen collection facility is adjacent to the stud’s existing boar unit and lab/processing centre. It’s a mirror image of the existing building with four rows of individual boar pens that run the length of the house and two centralised collection areas positioned at the front of the building. The ‘sunken’ semen collecting stations provide stockmen with good visibility and easy access to the boars while they are working. Each collection station is also furnished with automated ‘Collectis’ semen collection systems.
“Only a few minor details of Long Meadow’s original design have been altered – refinements that have improved handling, stockmanship and the efficiency of our collecting routine. We aim for calm and productive management and we do achieve it,” says Alan Moore.
The new building is practical, easy to manage and has two more automated collection stations than the system used next door, which will improve operating procedures and collection management.
“Having two stations in each collecting area will speed up turnaround times between each collection and simplify the individual hygiene and semen collecting procedures we carry out with every working boar. The additional facilities will improve our efficiency and make semen collections easier,” Alan adds.
The straw-based accommodation complies with all BPEX AI Standard, Red Tractor and Freedom Food requirements, while the highly sensitive environmental management system accurately monitors and maintains internal temperatures between 18°C to 22°C – a range fundamental to reproductive performance and the production of high quality semen. Each building also has independent feed, climate control and semen collection systems, which allows both houses to operate separate health controls and reinforces the centre’s already exceptional biosecurity standards.
“Most producers want more flexibility when choosing AI and suppliers need to embrace this…”
Stringent controls, quality assured
Once produced and collected, semen is sealed in flasks and sent swiftly to the lab via a pneumatic air tube delivery system. Every collection is kept at the optimum temperature and carefully handled to prevent shock or contamination. Samples are routinely taken and assessed using the latest technology to establish density/cell counts, sperm quality and detect any potential abnormalities or defects. An extender is added and the semen is then chilled gradually over a 4-hour period to 17 degrees C before being packaged for shipment. The quality control procedure is stringent, highly accurate and achieves standards exceeding those set by European AI regulations.
“The target is for our products to deliver exceptional performance on farm. We operate extremely high standards and have high expectations throughout our production chain. Our AI can, and does, achieve exceptional results if it is used correctly. Many of our top performing customer herds have conception rates above 95%, which demonstrates the semen they are using is of a consistently high quality and capable of achieving outstanding productivity,” says Ian.