Fire at Australia lab causes 100 containers of cattle semen worth thousands to explode

A building in Australia that houses a cattle breeding laboratory was destroyed by a fire that wiped out more than 100 cryogenic cylinders filled with valuable bull semen, according to officials.

The Yarram Herds Services's building, located in the Gippsland region, caught fire around 3 a.m. Tuesday and it took 10 fire crews two hours to contain.

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Inside the facility were cylinders of bull semen worth thousands of dollars, according to Aaron Thomas, the company's committee vice-chairman who told Australia's ABC the loss was a "huge blow" for farmers.

"The actual cylinders are worth between $500 and $1,000 per unit but the semen inside them varies in price," he said. "We're coming into the AI (artifical insemination) season so there would have been substantial amounts of semen inside the tanks that we've lost, which was owned by our local farmers, and it can range in value from $5 per straw to $95 per straw."

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Thomas said equipment, in addition to the semen, was destroyed in the fire.

"A lot of farmers would have semen stock in the building in those tanks, preparing for AI, so we've got that plus all of our herd-testing equipment that was in there as well," he told the news outlet. "So this is significant damage and it is going to have a flow-on effect on Yarram, especially after the drought that Yarram district has experienced over the last 12 months."

Yarram Herds Services, located in the Gippsland region of Australia, caught fire Tuesday, officials said.

Yarram Herds Services, located in the Gippsland region of Australia, caught fire Tuesday, officials said. (Google)

Fire officials said the blaze was challenging for firefighters, as the semen inside the cylinders "was rapidly expanding and essentially the lids of the cryogenic cylinders were just popping off the top and projectiles were being thrown from the building."

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"So firefighters went into a defensive mode initially to protect themselves, because there were also [liquefied petroleum gas] cylinders at the neighboring property, and they did a magnificent job," Chris Loeschenkohl, fire commander in Gippsland, said.

The staff of Yarram Herds Service was scheduled to meet Tuesday to determine next steps.