What's Going On News Embryo Transfer Calf Gives New Hope for Rare Semi-Wild Cattle Breed 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 the work to save one of the rarest breeds of UK native livestock. The calf, called Snow for her white colouring and the conditions at the time of her birth near Edinburgh on 6th January, was born thanks to 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 and has been used previously for conservation of rare Gloucester cattle. The calf’s birth has saved the genetic line of a rare Vaynol cow which had struggled to reproduce. RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “Snow’s birth really is momentous for the Vaynol breed, which is among our 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 but 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 vitally important to guard against inbreeding and to allow the creation of new herds. Vaynol prospects have improved since the 1980s when there was just one herd remaining, but there are still only five herds and 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. RBST works across the UK to save and safeguard rare and native livestock and equine breeds. The charity’s collaboration with AB Europe is part of RBST’s wider programme to support the future of the Vaynol breed, which includes collection of genetic materials and establishing new herds. The programme of work is made possible thanks to the donations of RBST supporters. Descended from Britain’s ancient white herds of parkland cattle and established at Vaynol Park near Bangor in 1872, the Vaynol breed is one of just two native semi-feral / feral breeds in the UK, along with Chillingham Wild Cattle. MEDIA CONTACT For more information, interviews or higher res images, contact Isobel Davidson, [email protected] or 07725 470917 More photos are available on request NOTES TO EDITORS Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is the sole charity dedicated to promoting and preserving the UKs rare and native breeds of farm livestock. Started in 1973, RBST monitors numbers of animals, and threats of inbreeding and geographical concentration. It promotes the breeding and registration of rare and native breeds. Through its 4,500 members, staff and support groups it provides a network of knowledge to support and encourage breeders to reduce these threats. See the website www.rbst.org.uk. Native breeds provide a major contribution to our rural economy, both economic and culturally. There are around 30,000 herds and flocks of native breeds in the UK. They contribute over £700 million to UK local economies.