The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation

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Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Rare Breeds Survival Trust

The Charitable Foundation supports RBST to conserve Whitebred Heifers

Whitebred Shorthorn cattle are in the critical category of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) watchlist of endangered native UK livestock breeds.This means that there are fewer than 150 registered breeding cows remaining.

With the support of The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation, RBST has purchased 5 Whitebred Shorthorn heifers which have been placed in the care of Morrisons Supermarkets Farm at Dumfries House in Scotland, where they will be bred pure and production data obtained in order to advise other farmers.

The grant awarded by The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation has also been used to purchase straws of semen from a Whitebred Shorthorn bull, which was being used for other breeds rather than to breed Whitebred Shorthorn cows pure. The purchase of this semen will enable RBST to offer breeders committed to the survival of this breed another choice of bull, so ensuring the continuation of the breed. Including this bull, RBST currently only has 6 Whitebred Shorthorn bulls represented in its Gene Bank.

RBST has also used the grant to purchase a Vaynol heifer called Templeson Ursula. Ursula and her sister Una are now being kept for RBST by a farmer in Scotland and form the beginnings of a third herd of this breed, which is in the critical category of the watchlist. Keeping this third herd of Vaynol cattle in Scotland ensures a wider distribution of the breed, which will help to protect it in the case of an outbreak of serious disease.

As well as conserving this part of our agricultural heritage, ensuring the survival of these breeds means that farmers in the future will have a wider range of genetics to choose from when breeding their livestock and so help them to meet the challenge of developing sustainable farming systems.

Case study

Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Morrisons work together to save rare breeds

Like many of the UK’s native cattle breeds, the Whitebred Shorthorn fell victim to changes in agricultural practice. Subsidies and cheap grain feedstuffs resulted in a move away from cattle reared through grazing and hill cattle fell out of favour. However, with cereals increasingly in demand for human consumption and a growing focus on sustainable land management, RBST believes the scene could be set for a revival in upland cattle rearing.

Morrisons’ Farm Operations Manager Andrew Loftus says: “We started farming at Dumfries House to look at ways of using traditional cattle breeds to produce the best beef possible for our customers. The Whitebred Shorthorns will fit in perfectly.

“The Whitebred Shorthorn has retained the qualities of longevity, good temperament and eating quality that we are looking for in our native breeds and they will be a valuable addition to our existing Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus herds.”