Someone Just Stole a Lot of Bull Semen

Cops in Northern Ireland probe theft of cryogenic storage tanks used for artificial insemination
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2023 2:52 PM CDT
Someone Just Stole a Lot of Bull Semen
Plastic straws containing bull semen are stored in a tank containing liquid nitrogen.   (Getty Images/JackF)

Police in Northern Ireland are on the hunt for a "large quantity" of stolen bull semen. Two cryogenic storage tanks holding cattle sperm were stolen from a farm in the village of Clogher, part of County Tyrone, sometime between 3pm on Oct. 21 and 1pm on Oct. 23, Newsweek reports. The tanks themselves may be worth $2,400; local police didn't put an exact price on the sperm within but said it had "significant value." The individual tanks have five or six storage compartments which can hold up to 200 or 300 plastic "straws" of bull semen each, the BBC reports, noting the most sought-after bull semen can sell for $600 per straw.

Artificial insemination "is safer in physical and biosecurity terms than bringing a bull into a herd. But it also allows farmers to develop the genetic quality of their herd ... for productivity, temperament or other characteristics," per the BBC. Farmers use storage tanks to "sustain rare and sometimes irreplaceable genetics," per the Independent. Peter Gittins, a lecturer in farm management at the University of Leeds, suggests the thieves may have wanted the semen "for personal use on an unregistered herd," per Newsweek. "Or they may be able to fabricate records" to aid a future sale. Either way, they'll need to be careful.

The tanks use liquid nitrogen to freeze the semen samples at -320 degrees Fahrenheit in order to preserve them, and "spilling the contents could cause major injuries," reports Newsweek. That's why those who use liquid nitrogen for artificial insemination storage must be trained and registered, per the BBC. If the thieves are inexperienced with handling cattle sperm, they also risk depleting the value of the haul by touching the straws. Heat from the hand is enough to kill sperm cells, per Newsweek. Mid Ulster Police said the theft occurred after burglars gained access to an outbuilding. "Our enquiries are ongoing as we work to establish the circumstances surrounding this theft." (More theft stories.)

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