The birth of a female Vaynol calf, through the “first-ever successful embryo transfer for a semi-feral breed of cattle”, has brought new hope in efforts to save the breed.
Her arrival has saved the genetic line of a rare Vaynol cow which had struggled to reproduce.
Snow, named because of her colouration and sub-zero conditions at the time of her birth near Edinburgh on January 6th, 2021, was the result of a cutting-edge conservation project delivered by Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) and animal breeding specialists AB Europe.
Vaynol embryos using in vitro embryo production techniques were implanted in recipient Angus cows in a method that is mostly used commercially with beef and dairy cattle.
ET work to boost other breeds
RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price described Snow’s birth as “momentous” for the Vaynol breed, which is among the UK’s very rarest native cattle.
“Vaynols are wonderful primitive animals but supporting their survival is particularly challenging due to their semi-feral nature and modest fertility.”
“They are an irreplaceable part of the UK’s heritage. The survival of the breed is also important in terms of the genetic diversity of cattle in the UK and guarding against future animal diseases.”
“We hope that the success of this project can open a crucial new avenue for the survival of the Vaynol breed, and also pave the way for embryo implant work to provide a vital boost to other rare breeds too.”
With eight breeding females registered in 2019 and just three in 2018, the Vaynol is one of only five cattle breeds given ‘critical’ status on the RBST Watchlist.
When a breed’s population is so low, the birth of new females is important to guard against inbreeding and to allow the creation of new herds, the trust stated.
Vaynol prospects have improved since the 1980s when there was just one herd remaining. Now there are still only five herds, and according to the RBST, the breed needs “significant” support to ensure its survival.
AB Europe veterinary surgeon, Gavin Tait, said: “We were very pleased to support this important conservation work and ensure that a precious Vaynol bloodline is not lost.”
“Persistence paid off with the birth of Snow following several previous implant efforts which failed to hold.”
“Snow was born on a -6C January night; we gave her extra colostrum and kept checking her, but she did very well and continues to thrive.”
The birth of a second calf from the same RBST and AB Europe embryo transfer project is expected this summer