News and Events
Update on Research into the Origins of Shetland Cattle
Many of you will remember that early in 2018 the SCHBS was approached by a PhD student who asked if we would participate in her research. The main aim of the investigation was to better understand the origins of cattle in the British Isles, through genetic assessment of native breeds from the British Isles and mainland Europe. The origins of the cattle were to be unravelled, using an archaeogenomics/palaeogenomics perspective, analysing both modern samples and ancient samples of native cattle from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. The aim was to get an understanding of the cattle's origins and the genomic changes they've undergone since then. SCHBS provided samples from a dozen sufficiently unrelated cows, both from Shetland and the mainland, for DNA testing for the research.
In October last year the research team informed us that the samples had been processed (DNA extracted and amplified) and had been sent for the next step in the procedure. The latest update, just received, is that the team is still waiting for some more data to arrive, both from the UK and mainland Europe, and that they will proceed with the data analysis when they have the complete dataset. We will keep you informed of progress.
To all those who visit our website, from many different places around the world, we would like to tell you that we have a Facebook page as well, called Shetland Cattle Herd Book Society. Please feel free to join. If you have an interest in the breed you may enjoy seeing the discussions on the page, or you may like to ask questions and interact with members .
Shetland Cattle on Culloden Battlefield
After several years of discussion and planning with the National Trust for Scotland, SCHBS is delighted to report that Shetland cattle are now (February) grazing the Culloden Battlefield just outside Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. Two cows with calves from the Fleet herd belonging to Lucy Norval are the first of a planned NTS Shetland herd which will carry out conservation grazing on the battlefield and hopefully provide meat in the future. Culloden is a site of great historical significance and a major destination for tourists and those from abroad with Scottish ancestry. Already the cattle are attracting considerable attention and they will be seen by many people. NTS and SCHBS are looking forward to a bright future at Culloden with the new herd.
Another Bull For Semen Collection
Rogiavi Hamelin arrived at Scawfell Genetics in Cumbria in February for semen collection. Hamelin is a black and white bull, born in Cornwall on 3 May, 2017. Semen will be collected for export and will be available for overseas herds as well as UK herds.
Herd Profile No. 10. on SCHBS Website and Facebook Page
The latest Herd Profile, "Rogiavi" has just been posted on the SCHBS Facebook page (Shetland Cattle Herd Book Society) and also here on the website. Profiles can be viewed under the tab on the Home Page, labelled Shetland Cattle.
St Trinians Balou to Dover
Many of you will know of the brindle bull, St Trinians Balou. He went to N. Ireland as a youngster and was brought back in 2013, for semen collection for the Zetralia Australian herd. Since then he has been used in Shetland and in Scotland (our cover photo shows him in Shetland), and semen was collected from him in 2014. This was used to produce the first Shetland calves born in the USA. A number of Balou calves have also been born in the UK from straws purchased from the SCHBS Semen Store. Balou is a big gentle bull, praised by Pete Sherwen of Scawfell Genetics and repeatedly mentioned in Lawrence Alderson's breed analysis reports. Balou is now almost 12 years old, still in fine fettle, and after several years of conservation grazing with the Scottish Wildlife Trust he has now (December 2018) gone to David Rowe's large Homestead herd which grazes the White Cliffs of Dover. He will be used to produce fine big meat calves, for which he is well-suited. It is most likely that he is the oldest living Shetland bull in the country.
Vale Trondra Arrow
Trondra Arrow, one of the bulls in the Semen Store is no longer with us (December, 2018). He was a fine black and white bull, bred in Shetland in the Trondra herd, and noted for his good conformation, excellent temperament and good genetics. Arrow lived a long life, being used by a number of herds and being kept until nearly 10 years old, much longer than the average bull normally lives. He left many progeny through which his legacy will continue. Straws are available through the Semen Store, where photos can also be seen.
Breed Analysis Report 2018
Please note that Lawrence Alderson's breed analysis report for 2018 is now on the website, under the tab "Breeding". Please refer to this report when planning breeding. In a breed with a small gene pool it is important to choose bulls wisely to ensure that all genetics are retained and used, and the gene pool kept in balance.
Another Semen Collection in Australia
Semen was collected from Shetland bull Zetralia Atticus in Australia on 2 December, 2018. Atticus was born in 2015 from an embryo created in Scotland. Semen from 10 Shetland bulls is now safely in storage in Australia for use in expanding the Zetralia herd.
Semen Store Update
The SCHBS Semen Store has recently (summer 2018) implemented changes to improve its service to breeders. Scawfell Genetics has secured sole distributorship in the UK of a new design of small dry shipping tank which can be dispatched quickly and easily and SCHBS Semen Store can now ship semen direct to any address in the UK within 24 hours. Shipping charges for breeders wishing to purchase semen from the store are as below. Prices are inclusive of any number of bulls and straws, packing, delivery and return of the tank. If you wish to order straws please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Breeders should note, too, that Scawfell Genetics carries a wide range of semen from other breeds, native and commercial, and this can be ordered as well, for cross-breeding or other purposes. For further information see www.scawfellgenetics.com.
Breaking News - First Shetlands Born in USA
The first Shetland calf in the USA, born from embryos created in the UK, was born in Texas on 28 August, 2018. It was a red bull and was quickly followed by two red heifer calves, making a small herd of three Shetlands as the foundation of the breed in the USA. Although selective breeding practices last century have resulted in the majority of Shetlands in the UK being black and white, the three calves in the USA are red, due to the parentage of the embryos. It should be noted that this is not a typical colour spread. A representative herd could include black, red, dun, brindle, grey or white, and any of these colours could be solid or with white. See the Gallery for examples of the range of colours in the breed.
Zetralia Semen Collection
Semen has just been collected (September, 2018) from two of the Shetland bulls in Australia, born from embryos. They are Zetralia Apollo Bay and Zetralia Ardgay. These bulls are part of the small herd of Shetlands started in Australia in 2015 as the only off-shore gene pool for the breed (see News item below). While they were sired by the same bull, making them half-brothers, they each represent individual genetics through their dams who are widely separated, genetically. By doing this semen collection these genetics are secured and at any point in the future can be put back into the gene pool to keep it in balance. The Shetland breed has a small gene pool so the key is to see that all the genetics are always in use, and in balance. Building up a semen store in Australia will also assist with the growth of the herd once more breeders are keeping them.
Semen Store Update
As has been reported in earlier items on this News page, semen was collected privately some years ago for the purposes of creating an off-shore herd and gene pool in Australia. More recently the SCHBS Semen Store was created and an amount of this export semen was made available to be sold through the store and for the establishment of a semen bank for security for the breed for the future. At the time the semen was collected it was not foreseen that there would be overseas demand for it beyond the Australian need but in fact this has happened, with interest from several different countries. The number of straws collected did not anticipate this. Following a recent appraisal of stocks of what remains in this country four of the export bulls have been withdrawn from sale through the store for the time being. Collecting semen which qualifies for export is costly and there is a limited number of bulls and straws available for sending overseas. Seven bulls are still available in the Semen Store and it is hoped that this will be increased with suitable new bulls that will be collected for domestic use.
Scotland's BVD Eradication Scheme
The BVD Advisory Group and Scottish Government have published some short videos to provide advice and information to cattle keepers about Scotland’s BVD eradication scheme. They are on a Youtube playlist for ease of access, and can be found at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnJEBZSMkbKpWs8TIJhxWznuAPSHe97fo You can watch the short films in sequence or individually. As new videos and infographics are produced, the Scottish BVD Advisory Group will add them to the playlist.
The Marketplace Page on the website is now active. If you have cattle to sell or if you are looking for particular animals to buy please send the details, including photos, to the Secretary, Wendy Malcolmson, at email@example.com. We hope you make the page a success and that you find it useful.
Additional Shetland Herd in the USA
Discussions are underway with a farmer in Tennessee about establishing a further herd of Shetland cattle in the USA. The Shetlands will join a herd of rare Dutch Belted cattle, a dairy breed of similar type and size to the Shetland, dating back to the 1700s in the Netherlands. The Shetland herd will be used in a grass-fed dairy system. Watch this space for further updates.
The Shetland Cattle Herd Book Society AGM was held on Saturday, 7 April, at The Cornerstone in Scalloway. Despite absences due to weddings and birthdays 25 people attended the meeting and stayed for the meal afterwards where they socialised until late in the evening. Steph Ede, who has the Hollington herd of around 40 Shetlands, came up from Derbyshire to attend, accompanied by her seven-year-old son Alastair, and was welcomed by all.
SCHBS 2010 Centenary Books - grab copies while still available!
In 2010 the SCHBS celebrated the centenary of the Herd Book. An A4 sized hard cover book of 232 pages, "A Pictorial Daander Trowe Shetland's Crofting Culture" was published to commemorate the event. It was written by Shetlanders and celebrates the life and lifestyle of Shetland's crofters, with the Shetland cow central to this. It is a wonderful read and record for anyone interested in the Shetland cow and Shetland life, and is full of photos of both current and historical animals and people. It is a limited edition and is already a collector's piece.
Also in the same year, the annual Herd Book was made a special edition to celebrate the centenary. As well as providing details of calves registered in that year, the book includes a profile of all the herds in the UK that bred and registered pure Shetland calves in 2010. Sixteen herds in Shetland and fifty-seven mainland and Irish herds appear in the book.
There are a few copies left of both of these books and they are for sale from SCHBS at £20 each. Enquiries can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org
Breed Analysis Reports
Annual Breed Analysis Reports, prepared by Lawrence Alderson CBE, are now available on the website on the Home Page, under the Breeding tab. Lawrence was a Founder of RBST and Founder President of Rare Breeds International. He is author of many books, papers and articles relating to genetics and rare breeds and he is actively involved in several breed societies and livestock enterprises. As the gene pool of Shetland cattle is small, breeders are urged to inform themselves when making choices about which bulls to use and which bull calves to keep entire. Lawrence's reports provide valuable information about the current genetic health of the breed and guidance as to choice of bulls.
Another 19 year old gives birth
Benston Elsie, born 8 March, 1999, calved a heifer calf on 15 January, 2018, in Shetland, to The Point Jacobite.
The third Shetland calf in the Australian Zetralia herd was born in Gippsland, Victoria, on 7th January, 2018, to heifer Zetralia Alamootie. It was a bull. Alamootie displays her fine udder, a strong feature of the Shetland breed.
Vale Collafirth Rowan
23 March 1996 - 18 December 2017
Another Bull for Australia and USA
Semen from three-year-old Shetland bull Renwick Renoir has finally been cleared for export, after months of delay with his final blood tests. His semen is now ready to ship to Australia, Zimbabwe and the USA. Straws are available from the Semen Store, both for domestic use and export. He contributes frame, length, colour (grey) and exceptional temperament.
First All-Shetland Births in Australia
Two calves were born in Australia in September, 2017, from Shetland sires and Shetland dams. They are the first calves to be born in Australia from two Shetland parents, joined naturally. In true Shetland style the births were fast, and despite great anticipation and vigilant observation no-one managed to see either birth. Both calves were up and sucking quickly and both heifer mothers, Zetralia Avelyn and Zetralia Aith, were relaxed and calm and allowed well-wishers to pat and handle their calves immediately. See below for more information about the Australian Zetralia herd.
Shetland Herd in Australia
Seven Shetland calves were born in Australia in early 2015 from embryos created in Scotland in 2013 and implanted in Ayrshire heifer surrogates in Australia in 2014. There are four heifers and three bulls. Photos of them can be seen in the Gallery. These are the only Shetland cattle outside the UK. The herd was established by Paddy Zakaria, a member of the SCHBS Management Committee, as an off-shore gene pool to secure the breed in the event of the loss of genetics in the UK. Shetland cattle have been taken out of the UK before, notably a breeding group taken to the Falkland Islands after the war, but there was no systematic plan to create a viable herd at that time and no members of this group have survived. Semen has been collected and shipped to Australia to ensure the diversity and viability of the new herd and the genetics now in Australia represent 93% of all the ancestors and founders of the breed. Additional semen collections will further improve the balance of the new gene pool. Zetralia Avelyn, mother of the first calf, can be seen back left in the photo, at 18 months old and Zetralia Aith, mother of the second calf, is in the foreground.
Dun Bull From Shetland
Dun bull Ocraquoy Haldor, 3.5 years old, has been sent from Shetland for a season of breeding on the mainland. The dun colour is still rare in Shetland cattle. Haldor is a fine example and has a very placid temperament. His dam, Hestataing Amber, was a well-known prize winner in Shetland in her younger days and is still breeding successfully at the age of 15. A dun heifer calf of Haldor's appears below.
Another 19 Year Old Calves Successfully
Ustaness Gunna, 19 years old in April 2017, gave birth to a lively bull calf on 17 August, 2017. Gunna arrived from Shetland into the Fleet herd in Rogart, Sutherland, at the age of 17, for a well-deserved retirement in slightly gentler climes than her homeland. She has, however, showed no inclination to slow down and has produced two calves since, first a heifer, Fleet Moon, and now a bull, Fleet Climper. She is sound and healthy in all respects and is expected to calve again in 2018.
Cunningsburgh Show, Shetland, 2017
Best Calf - Collafirth Hamish, sire Ocraquoy Haldor, dam Collafirth Babbie
Supreme Cattle Champion - Collafirth Babbie
Shetland Beef Biltong Award
Great Taste, organised by the Guild of Fine Food to encourage and mentor artisan food producers, have announced their 2017 award winners, after a judging process lasting from March till July and involving 500 judges from all over the world. These awards are the "Oscars" of the food world and the "epicurean equivalent of the Booker Prize". Paul and Becky Newman keep the Newmans herd of Shetland cattle in the hills above Aberfeldy in Perthshire and run Errichel B&B and Thyme at Errichel Restaurant. This year they won several Great Taste awards for their produce and amongst these was the fine achievement of Two Stars for their Shetland Beef Biltong.
In May Paul and Becky also won the Scottish Land and Estates Award for Agri-Tourism. Their Shetland herd, which they use for milk as well as beef, is an important part of their business and creates interest amongst visitors on guided walks around their spectacular farm. Congratulations to all at Errichel for an excellent achievement and for promoting Shetland cattle!
Brindle Back in Shetland
Following a season of work in Shetland by the brindle bull St Trinians Balou in 2015, brindle cattle have reappeared in Shetland. A Shetland-born brindle son is already at work. Heifer Minarvi Maya, born in Shetland in 2016, displays some of Balou's distinctive striping.
Glachbeg Casper, a white bull calf, was born on 7 May. He has black ear tips, black eye surrounds and black horn buds. The photos show him with dirt on his face, at six weeks old. White Shetlands are nowadays unusual although in olden times they were common. His great grandsire, St Trinians Ghost, was another white bull. He can be seen in the Bulls album in the Gallery. Casper's sire is Renwick Renoir, seen in the news item above.
Shetland Genetics to Zimbabwe
A shipment of Shetland semen is currently planned for Zimbabwe, the relevant import permissions having been granted by the Zimbabwean authorities. This means there will be Shetland genetics in three continents - Africa, Australia and North America. Cattle were born in Australia, from embryos, in 2015 and Shetland embryos have been implanted in surrogate cows in the USA, with calves expected in September 2018. The semen for Zimbabwe will be shipped to beef farmer, Mr Canaan Gwete, who is looking to bring specific Shetland attributes to his herd of mainly Brahman cattle. He is hoping that the Shetland genetics will improve the milkiness, temperament and hardiness of his herd, and will also moderate the size. Photos below show some of Canaan's mixed herd and also his Brahman bull, grazing his farm west of Mutare in Zimbabwe. Watch for updates to this exciting venture.