Gene Bank

To safeguard our rarest breeds, we save genetic material in our Gene Bank. We collect material from animals, usually semen from males but also embryos from cattle breeds. This is then frozen and stored so that if a breed were to become extinct, we can use it to revive the breed.

History and Future

Frozen straws semen

Although RBST had for many years collected, stored and distributed rare breed cattle semen, the need to expand the archive to include other species of rare breeds became urgent as a result of the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic.

RBST now collects semen from all the breeds on the Watchlist except the poultry breeds. In 2015, RBST also began collecting and storing embryos from rare breed cattle.

RBST monitors developments in reproductive technology and as new technologies become available to us, we hope to be able to store more material, including embryos from our other species and material from our poultry breeds.



How do we choose which animals to collect from?

RBST welcomes nominations of animals of all breeds on the current RBST Watchlist, categories 1-5. However we usually prioritise breeds in categories 1-3.

We want animals collected to represent the diversity of the whole breed. When considering collecting material from a new animal, we use a kinship analysis to measure how related it is to others we have previously collected. Ideally kinship should be very low meaning the animals are as unrelated as possible.

RBST is not just collecting from show winners and those considered the best in the breed. We want the Gene Bank to represent the genetic diversity found in each breed.

In several breeds we have conducted a Geneped breed analysis which enables us to highlight the different bloodlines in a breed and select animals that represent the range of lines, both rare and common.


Semen Collections

The majority of the Gene Bank is made up of semen. We collect from males from our cattle, equine, sheep, goat and pig breeds. Our target is 25 unrelated males from each breed.

Species Cost to collect Target Collections For Gene Bank archive For conservation breeding projects
Cattle £3,100 140 straws 90 straws Remainder
Equine £5,000 100 doses 55 doses Remainder
Sheep £900 100 doses 55 doses Remainder
Goats £900 100 doses 55 doses Remainder
Pigs £2,000 100 doses 50 doses Remainder *

* We collect in partnership with the BPA who manage the semen for use in conservation breeding projects.

Embryo Collections

In 2015 RBST began collecting and storing cattle embryos. As the project is in it's infancy, we are currently reviewing our targets.

A collection usually costs around £850 per female. 

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Your support can help us save the UK’s rarest breeds of farm animals.

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