This year will see RBST putting its fundraising efforts behind a programme to ensure the future of some of our rarest breeds of cattle. 

The 2019 campaign ‘Saving the Future Today: RBST Cattle Campaign’ is aimed at funding the collection and storage in the Gene Bank of cattle embryos from breeds such as Irish Moiled, Albion and Native Aberdeen Angus.

Explaining the focus on embryo collection, Field Officer Richard Broad says:  “The underlying reason for creating the Gene Bank was to ensure that, given the worst-case scenario of total loss of a breed, we would have sufficient genetics in store to re-create that breed.  Originally, the only way to do this was to collect semen.  However, science has made enormous strides and it has become both financially and scientifically viable to collect and freeze embryos’. 

“This gives us an enormous advantage.  To re-create a breed using artificial insemination from stored semen involves grading up over several generations before you arrive back as close as you can get to the original breed.  In contrast, by using embryos you can have pure-bred animals on the ground from the first generation. With sufficient embryos in store representing a diversity of bloodlines, this would give a project to recreate a breed a flying start and ensure its genetic integrity.”

The potential power of embryo work can be illustrated by a project which was run by former RBST Charles Castle, a veterinary surgeon with the Beech House Veterinary Surgery in Towcester and a Northern Dairy Shorthorn (NDS) breeder.  The project, which was part-funded by RBST, involved embryo transfer work both to boost the numbers of NDS on the ground and to put embryos into long-term storage.

In launching its 2019 appeal, RBST hopes to achieve collections from as many of the Watchlist breeds as possible, working with Breed Societies and breeders to identify suitable animals for collection.  Typically, for a full Gene Bank collection we require eight embryos. Each full collection costs in the region of £3,200.

If you might be willing to work with RBST by loaning a cow for IVF or Embryo Transfer please do get in touch with your local Field Officer.

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