The state-of-the-art bull stud provides a bull hire scheme for crofters and the modernisation has seen the outdated farm buildings demolished and replaced with a new office, quarantine building, main bull housing building, GP building and new silage clamp.
While its main role is providing a home for up to 150 bulls, the stud at Knocknagael, on the outskirts of Inverness, its also boasts a range of environmental benefits, including a bat roost, bird boxes and biosecurity hedging
Sustainable development measures include an airsource heating system, solar thermal and solar PV panels, a designed farm wetland and rainwater attenuation pond
Biosecurity measures have also been incorporated into the scheme, including a double fence with wire stock-fence and electric top wire and hedge planting around bull grazing fields
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who officially opened the stud today, said: “The Crofting Cattle Improvement Scheme is vital for our crofters giving them access to high quality, healthy bulls which ensures they can provide quality calves to improve the productivity of crofts and boost the supply of premium product for the Scottish beef industry.
“The modernised stud provides quality modern accommodation for the bulls which is more fit for purpose with an increased emphasis on health and safety and we have optimised the bulls’ welfare needs.
“But the stud also showcases the latest biosecurity and environmental measures, many of which could be adopted by farmers throughout Scotland as they carry out work on their own farms.”
Crofting Commission Convener Susan Walker described the opening of the refurbished facility as “a vital investment in the future of the Crofting Cattle Improvement Scheme”.
She said: “Crofters throughout the crofting counties will feel encouraged that Scottish Government listened to the calls for the bull scheme to be retained.
“The investment in this new facility demonstrates the Government’s increasing commitment to crofting and a recognition of the contribution crofting can continue to make by producing high quality animals for Scotland’s food industry.
“The new facilities at Knocknagael will give crofters access to pedigree bulls, helping to maintain and grow the quality of crofters’ herds and production of store and breeding animals.
“This long-term commitment to crofting cattle production reflects a most welcome understanding by the Scottish Government of what such a scheme can deliver for the economy, environment, and people in the crofting counties.”
The construction project also offered a range of community benefits, including creating three new apprenticeships and supporting five existing apprentices.
As well as this, 15 local construction students undertook a programme of work placements while others undertook a series of Get Ready for Work placements.
Frank Reid, regional managing director of Robertson, said: “We are delighted to have been involved with this project which has been delivered on time and on budget.
“Investing in a properly skilled workforce is one of our key priorities. As a result of our involvement in the Bull Stud Modernisation Project we have been able to take on a number of new apprentices and also employ an undergraduate student quantity surveyor who will complete her degree while working for us.
“We’ve also worked with our subcontractors to introduce training plans for their staff and operatives as part of their contracts with us.”
In 2012, 102 bulls were hired out to 88 groups with approximately 400 beneficiaries. This season, 97 bulls will be hired out to 84 groups, again with approximately 400 beneficiaries.
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.