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Saving the seed corn

A BANK of bull semen is to be created in the hope of increasing the numbers of Shetland cattle.

A total of six bulls of the native breed will provide semen for the project, as well as four from Sutherland based breeder Paddy Zakaria.

The bank is masterminded by the Shetland Cattle Herd Book Society, which says semen stock available to crofters has “dwindled” in recent years.

It is hoped that collecting the semen will allow people who do not wish to keep a bull the chance to produce Shetland calves.

The project, due to kick off next week, will be the first time since 1987 that semen has been taken from Shetland bulls.

At one point in the 1980s there were just 30 Shetland cows left in the isles, but that number has risen to over 200.

The collection of the semen will be undertaken at the Shetland Marts in Lerwick, with Pete Sherwen of Cumbria’s Scawfell Genetics overseeing the event.

The semen has to be taken in the morning and flown to Devon for storage by the next day; otherwise the sample will be wasted.

Sherwen previously worked with breeder Zakaria when she exported embryos to her native Australia a few years ago to start rearing Shetland cattle down under.