Background last update:Feb 25, 2016

Hermitage Seaborough boosts UK pig industry

Hermitage Seaborough has invested in a new AI facility in the UK. The site is located in Cambridge, near major roads and Stansted airport, allowing easy transport of semen to all over the UK. The facility is also EU licenced for global exports.

Good news has been somewhat lacking of late in the UK, so the announcement of a massive £1 million (€1,2 million) investment by Hermitage Seaborough in a brand new state-of-the-art 260 boar AI facility near Willingham, Cambridge is greatly welcomed.
The new stud was formally opened on 28 February, by Sir James Pierce MP (Member of Parliament) who is a former pig farmer and whose parliamentary constituency contains Willingham within its boundaries.

Hermitage Pedigree Pigs, established by the Nolan family in 1958 and founded using pedigree Landrace lines is based in County Kilkenny, Ireland. In contrast Seaborough Pigs, based in the UK’s West Country,  was founded by Jeremy and Sarah Barber over 30 years ago, initially breeding pedigree Large Whites.

It’s extremely difficult to find an AI stud site in an area which has a low pig density yet which is centrally located for the rapid distribution of semen all over the country. The Willingham area is predominantly arable and near major road links so semen can be shipped by courier quickly to all parts of the UK.

According to Ronan Murphy, Hermitage Seaborough’s business manager, the company’s existing 140 boar stud in north Devon was well located in an area which was not central. The stud will house a total of 260 boars and the first 64 are in residence.
There are peaks in semen demand and so stud numbers take this into account, with extra boars providing a safety valve when needed. All the boars are initially quarantined on an isolation farm before being brought to Willingham.

The boar stud itself is impressive. A pressured ventilation system has been incorporated with filtered air being delivered to the boars. A raised viewing gallery enables visitors to see the boars and boar pens through glass for biosecurity reasons -and the pens are slatted and fitted with hydraulically operated guillotine-style doors.

Many of the stud boars are high conformation terminal sires - Hylean Maxgro and other terminal sire lines (Maternal Landrace and LW lines are also in the stud). These sires are often used by producers who sell pigs on conformation and hence need to be able to visually assess the boars. Boars are fed a special lactator diet which is beefed up with extra minerals. A semi-automatic semen collection system is part of the latest technology used at the stud, with boars being collected three times in two weeks. The semen is processed in a large airy well lit laboratory. The semen is checked visually and the temperature is stabilised at 17°C. The diluted semen is packaged by IMV equipment at a rate of 1000 doses per hour. Each pack contains 2.7 billion sperm, pack volume is 90 ml and a 5 day extender is used. Semen is couriered overnight all over the UK and left in special containers which can keep semen at 17°C for four hours, at the farm gate. This means pig unit staff can inseminate sows first thing in the morning.

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