37 New objectives come with new WestGen barn


WestGen opened its new office on Agricultural Land Reserve land in Abbotsford just over a year ago, it promised to add a barn. On November 25, they fulfilled that promise, officially opening the new Boviteq West (BW) barn. “Now, maybe my phone will stop ringing,” Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun told the crowd on hand to witness the opening. He said council had received many complaints for approving an office building on farmland but believes the new barn will quell those concerns. WestGen president Eric

Iversen also welcomed the barn, saying it again consolidates “all our operations on one property.” WestGen chief executive officer Chris Parry says the new barn is “all about reproduction.” But it’s not reproduction in the old sense of the

WestGen hosted a grand opening of its new Boviteq West barn in Abbotsford. DAVID SCHMIDT PHOTO

alternate Wednesdays, typically collecting oocytes from about seven donors. The oocytes are shipped in an incubator

word. Instead of housing bulls, the new barn houses cows and heifers. Instead of collecting semen, it is used to collect oocytes (eggs) from donor females. The barn has a 140-animal capacity, divided into

two sides with different health status for the animals within it. Both feed into a “hot room,” heated to 28°C, where the collections take place. Lisa McCrea of Agwest Veterinary Group and Rich

Vanderwal of Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic demonstrated and detailed the process for a surge of interested onlookers. Each do their collections on

overnight to Quebec and fertilized in a petri dish. Within a week, they not only know how many embryos were created but the quality of each embryo. Number one quality embryos can be frozen while number two quality embryos are shipped back to Abbotsford and implanted in waiting recipients. Good donors will produce up to 30-40 oocytes although McCrea says the “magic number” is 10-20. “That results in the best-quality embryos.” Donors include everything from high-pedigree

calves to cows at the end of their career. Farmers can have the embryos implanted into their own animals

or into one of WestGen’s recipients. “We obtain our own

recipients which we sell to the farmer once they have been successfully implanted,” Parry explains. McCrea notes BW’s in vitro

fertilization takes reproduction to the next level. Oocytes can be collected as often as two weeks from calves as young as eight months, speeding up genetic advancement. That has prompted

WestGen to create the WestGen GeneBank. “We buy heifers with top genetics at seven to eight months of age, then have a window of seven to eight months to collect oocytes from them,” explains WestGen sales and marketing manager Paul Meyer, who is

co-ordinating the trial program. “The idea is to generate top level genetics from these heifers at a reasonable cost for producers by sharing the cost and the embryo harvest.” Currently, the GeneBank includes 12 dairymen

from Manitoba, Alberta and BC and has purchased four elite heifers from Progenesis and Westcoast Holsteins. Meyer stresses the GeneBank is a trial, saying its

eventual direction is still unknown. “We are trying to determine whether it is more

cost-effective to buy our own heifers and do our collection and fertilization or whether we should simply buy embryos with the high genetics we want from other collections.”

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