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.

Descended from Britain’s ancient white herds of parkland cattle and established at Vaynol Park near Bangor in 1872, the breed is one of just two native semi-feral/feral breeds in the UK, along with Chillingham wild cattle.

The calf, called Snow for her white colouring and the conditions at the time of her birth near Edinburgh on January 6, 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.”

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.

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.

The birth of a second calf from the same RBST and AB Europe embryo transfer project is expected this summer.