State-of-the-art semen collection facility opens doors in SD

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MITCHELL, S.D. — For seed stock producers, quality semen is the foundation of any breeding program. It's no secret beef producers in South Dakota have some of the best genetics in the country, so it is critical to have a way to collect and preserve those genetics through custom semen collection.

That's the goal of Custom Genetic Solutions of Mitchell, S.D. This semen collection, processing and preservation facility is owned by 17 investors who want to provide a great custom collection experience with welcoming customer service and the utmost bull care, all while maintaining strict health and semen quality standards.

The original bull stud near Mitchell was started in 1997 by Lloyd Jungman and eventually sold to Genex CRI Inc. Steve Eichacker of Eichacker Simmentals near Salem, S.D., says about a year ago, Genex decided to shut the facility down.

"Within a month, the area producers were talking ... we really need to have this bull stud, this collection facility going here because there is no CSS (Certified Semen Service) facility in this area," Eichacker says.

In fact, he says there are no bull stud collection facilities in North Dakota or Minnesota.

"It's just a good location — the closest CSS facility from here you've either got to go to Billings, Mont., or western Nebraska or southern Nebraska or Des Moines, Iowa."

Proximity of the site is a big advantage for producers with bulls or who use artificial insemination. The site is in a great location, right on Interstate 90 and close to several main highways.

"It's a shame to have to see them cattle shipped out of state just to collect semen," Eichacker says.

He says being 35 miles from CGS allows him to store his semen and have easy access to it. The ability to build a premiere custom collection facility in South Dakota also allows seed stock producers to add value to their programs.

"I think we're going to have bulls from around the country here once we're up and rolling just because of the technology that we've used, the attention to bull care and the level of customer service we plan on bringing to our customers," says cattle producer AJ Munger with Eagle Pass Ranch near Highmore, S.D.

He says they have room to house up to 90 bulls at the stud site and are currently accepting sires ahead of their peak season.

"Spring is going to be our busy season. We expect to be pretty full from Feb. 1 all the way to June 1," Munger says.

CGS is a CSS Certified facility which Munger says will make semen eligible for export. As a result, they have high expectations for the volume of semen that will be processed at the site.

"We expect to collect hopefully 250,000 units here this first year and grow and expand from there," Munger says.

The technology being used to test the quality of the semen is state-of-the-art and was developed by Minitube USA.

"We have the ability to do simple motility and concentration checks on ejaculate, as well as more extensive checks like acrosome integrity, membrane integrity, DNA checks," says John Quackenbush, vice president of operations.

He says the DNA checks are especially important, because if the DNA is not complete, the female will not be able to complete the pregnancy or will eventually abort. The battery of quality tests that can be run help them determine if the sperm is fertile or not in short order, which can help increase conception rates.

CGS also has a turbo freezer, which Quackenbush says aids with the viability and preservation of the sperm.

"Bringing the semen from 5-degree Celsius down to negative 160 degrees is very important for the thawing process and the motility of that semen," he says.

Craig Bieber is co-owner of Bieber Red Angus Ranch near Leola, S.D. He says the ranch became an investor because they are excited about the level of technology being used at CGS.

"As far as I know there is no custom collection facility that is going to have the technology that we have," he says.

And so, Bieber believes it will help producers advance the genetics of their herds.

"Trying to identify defects in semen — that will give us more opportunity to get better conception rates by understanding problems with the semen or how good or bad it might be," he says.

Bieber says CGS will give seed stock producers in the region an edge in quality semen production, which translates to a better bottom line for cattle producers.

"I think that this will offer us as producers more opportunities at more AI pregnancies which should increase our profit margin."