At the end of March, the last group of about 50 bulls will be loaded onto trucks from the green-and-white Westgen barns at the intersection of Glover Road and Worrell Crescent in Langley, for shipment to an artificial insemination facility in eastern Canada.
And with that, more than 60 years of history will come to an end.
Seven full-time and two part-time people have been handed layoff notices, and the land where the soon-to-be empty barns stand will probably be sold and the Westgen offices relocated since there is no more need for locally-based bulls.
“We are now a sales and marketing organization” Westgen general manager Brad Howard told The Times Monday.
Technology is the main reason for the closure of the Langley barns.
Advances in artificial insemination technology have meant fewer bulls can produce more offspring than ever before.
Most of the barns at the Langley operation are 40 to 50 years old and far bigger than they need to be.
Westgen is a partner in the Semex Alliance of artificial insemination companies in Canada, an association with three other firms in Ontario and Quebec who also have more capacity than they need.
In an open letter to members and customers in January, Westgen president David Janssens said renovating the aging barns to accommodate fewer bulls “really doesn’t make much sense” compared to relocating the bulls to eastern Canadian facilities and closing the barns.
Janssens said the move will keep costs down for customers.
“Westgen will continue to supply the world’s best genetics at the lowest possible price to its members.”
What is now Westgen began life as the Surrey-based Lower Fraser Valley Artificial Insemination Association in 1944.
It moved to its current location in 1949, becoming the B.C. Artificial Insemination Centre (BCAI).
BCAI merged with the Okanagan AI Centre in 1958 and with the Chilliwack AI Centre in 1986.
It joined the Semex alliance in 1997 and change its name to Westgen in 1998.
The alliance produces millions of doses from hundreds of bulls every year.