The modernisation of Scotland’s bull stud farm will deliver a boost to crofting and employment.
A Crofters’ Bull Hire Scheme has been funded and operated by the Government since 1897, enabling crofters to access high quality bulls and supply quality calves to the beef industry throughout Scotland.
Work to upgrade and modernise the bull stud farm is now underway.
The contract to undertake the building work and upgrade the bull stud facility at Knocknagael Farm, near Inverness, has been awarded to Robertson Construction Ltd.
The £3 million bull stud modernisation project, due to be completed in Spring 2013, will boast a quarantine unit for receiving bulls, veterinary and office facilities and a general purpose shed, alongside the main bull accommodation which will house up to 150 bulls.
The construction work also provides an opportunity for four apprentices and four work experience placements for 16-19 year olds.
Site visits will be organised for the local agricultural community to give an insight into the construction techniques, including the zero waste policy.
A school safety campaign will also be organised, with school visits to highlight the dangers of both construction sites and farms while also offering information about careers in the construction industry.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson says:
‘Scotland has operated a bull hire scheme for crofters for well over 100 years, giving crofters access to high quality bulls and ensuring they can supply quality calves to the Scottish beef industry.
‘These new facilities will bring the Scottish Government bull stud into the 21st century, providing excellent animal health and welfare to support on-croft cattle breeding.
‘Not only will the modernisation increase the value for money offered by the stud, it will also include very real environmental and other benefits through the use of solar panels and modern, thermally efficient and durable building materials. In addition, the project will make best use of recyclable materials in line with Scotland’s Zero Waste Strategy.’
Frank Reid, Regional Managing Director for Robertson, says:
‘We’re delighted to be awarded this contract and to be working in partnership with the Scottish Government. At Robertson we strive to be active members of the communities where we operate and this project will allow us a number of opportunities to engage with the local schools and agricultural community. In addition we also have the potential to connect with the local workforce throughout the duration of this project.’
Patrick Krause, Chief Executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation, says:
‘It is very gratifying to see that the bull stud facility at Knocknagael is about to be upgraded. The SCF has campaigned long and hard to retain the highly valued crofters’ cattle Improvement scheme and it is commendable that the Scottish Government is supporting this and that the stud facility is about to be improved in a very socially conscious way. Everyone is aware that we have to be careful about how public money is spent, but there is no doubt that this is a good long term investment for Highland and Island communities.’
Jamie McGrigor MSP must feel very satisfied at this announcement as it validates the vigirous campaign he fought successful a few years ago to save the Bull Hire scheme, which the then government planned to scrap.
The government suggested, at the time of planning to abolish the service, that crofters might collectively own and share a bull.
This was a desk-bound bureaucrat’s wisdom as McGrigor pointed out at the time.
The issue is one of genetic invigoration of stock. A situation where a single bull is fathering generations of calves in herds across a single area could do nothing but impoverish the gene pool, progressively diminishing the quality and desirability of the stock.
The Bull Hire Scheme had been set up, imaginatively to address this specific issue and is unequivocally the best way to do so.
It is to Jamie McGrigor’s enduring credit that he persevered with his campaign until he won and saw the scheme’s future assured. Now, with this announcement, it is being enhanced.
The very notion of bull hire is comical to a metropolitan audience alienated from farming and crofting – but McGrigor accepted the jokes and giggles in good spirit and carried on campaigning. Job done.