Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Bacteria blamed for LIC semen quality issues

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More than 1000 herds affected by dodgy batches sent out in October.
LIC chair Murray King says NZ does not need to milk more cows, we just need to milk the best cows. File photo
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An internal investigation by LIC says that bacterial contamination was the most likely cause of the semen quality issues that affected farms across the country in October.

Batches of the poor-quality semen were sent to farms for insemination on October 17-19 and October 23-25. In all, 1127 herds were impacted. 

Cows did get in calf from the inseminations on the affected days, but a noticeably lower number than LIC would have expected. 

Credit and goodwill packages were offered to farmers to support recovery. 

LIC chief executive David Chin said every possibility was investigated and multiple scenarios were recreated using the semen from the impacted days. Semen is routinely frozen and stored for research purposes. 

“While we were able to narrow it down to a possible cause, it was not possible to identify the exact root cause of the bacterial contamination. We considered every possibility, from the bull farm to on-farm insemination, and were able to rule out many possible causes by process of elimination. 

“We are now focused on implementing the recommendations that stemmed from the investigation to reduce the likelihood of this ever happening again.” 

The investigation report says many factors can influence a biological product, which is why it is not possible to identify the exact root cause of the bacterial contamination. 

“Some of the bacteria identified were known to be bacteria that can impact semen, therefore a possible cause,” it says.

LIC said it will have over half of the recommendations in place by March this year, with many improvements already implemented.

“When we first identified this issue, we made immediate changes to our quality control checking process. Now, daily quality control checks occur at 4am every morning prior to insemination on farm on that given day. This change means we can notify AB Technicians of any issues and ask them to use back-up semen instead, so we can still get cows in calf,” Chin said. 

Chin acknowledged that for impacted farmers the full extent of the situation is only now coming to light as they complete pregnancy testing.

“Getting cows in calf is what we do – and we have a very good track record at doing just that. We acknowledge the impact this situation caused for individual cows in herds and we are disappointed that, in this instance, we didn’t deliver to the high standard farmers expect.  

“We are not closing the book on this – as a farmer-owned co-op we are always looking at ways we can improve our processes to deliver farmers the right tools to breed the most sustainable and profitable herds –  now and into the future.”

 A separate, independent review was carried out to formally assess the way LIC took action in response to the issue. 

This review identified areas of improvement when it came to managing risk, responding to events and communicating effectively and efficiently.

The report says LIC is committed to implementing all of the recommendations.

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