HC Deb 27 February 1976 vol 906 cc359-60W
Mr. Gould

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what decisions he has reached on the outstanding issues concerning artificial insemination of cattle.

Mr. Strang

On the question of farm storage of bull semen and its use by farm personnel there is a number of relevant considerations. These include the need to avoid the spread of disease; the need to ensure that AI remains available to as many farmers as possible; the maintenance and, if possible, expansion of progeny testing schemes; and the cost and convenience to all concerned. Taking all these considerations into account my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland have decided that the best course would be to permit farm storage of semen from approved bulls, provided that the storage arrangements are approved and that the semen is distributed through the existing AI Centre network. Full records of do-it-yourself inseminations will have to be kept by the farmer himself, and all semen supplied under these arrangements will be for use only on his own farm.

Amendment of the existing regulations will be necessary before these changes can be introduced, and operational procedures will have to be worked out in detail. I hope, however, that it will be possible to bring the new arrangements into full effect this autumn.

The other outstanding issue concerns Government involvement in the quality selection of AI bulls. At present the number of young bulls put forward for progeny testing is too great for the testing resources available, and while this remains the case some screening by the Agriculture Departments ensures that these resources are used for the young bulls most likely to achieve proven sire status. However, the present arrangements whereby breeders are permitted to test young bulls of their own choice outside the official scheme will be extended to allow not less than five nor more than 10 breeders to co-operate in their own arrangements. Widespread use of semen from proven bulls will continue to be subject to approval, but the criteria applied will be the minima necessary to ensure continued genetic improvement of the national herd.

Details of the quality standards applicable to AI bulls will be made available to all concerned as soon as they have been finalised.

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