Strawberry bears fruit to delight of farmer Paul
Strawberry, the Dairy Shorthorn, has given birth to a heifer at Bicton College in East Devon – helping continue a breed that is now rarer than the Giant Panda.
She went into labour shortly after being inspected by 50 farmers from the Rare Breeds' Survival Trust, because Dairy Shorthorns, once the nation's most prolific cattle breed, are now on the endangered list.
The little heifer's arrival has given a boost to the Dairy Shorthorn gene pool, a breed that now has only 80 breeding females in the country – which makes the Dairy Shorthorn rarer than the Giant Panda.
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The coming of supermarket trading with its consequent change in consumer demand, and the polarisation of cattle into more defined dairy and beef breeds, saw the rapid decline of the Dairy Shorthorn, exacerbated by the increased popularity of black-and-white breeds from the continent, Friesians and Holsteins.
Proud mum Strawberry 128th came to Bicton College from Wales, as part of its partnership with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which will see a whole range of animals on the endangered list bred at the college under a special survival programme, which will partly utilise the £3 million Animal Husbandry School now under construction.
Bicton farm manager Paul Redmore said the college was delighted with the new arrival. "The calf's mother will now be used by us to flush embryos and transfer them into other Dairy Shorthorn heifers to keep the breed from becoming extinct," he explained. "We shall super-ovulate her so she produces more than one embryo, meaning that six or seven viable embryos could be collected from the cow to be implanted into other Dairy Shorthorn cattle. This is similar to IVF treatment in humans, except the eggs are fertilised inside the cow and not in a test tube."