Rare breeds in the TV spotlight: Countryfile visits pioneering equine breeding centre

  • A business at the forefront of equine breeding will feature on an upcoming episode of BBC One’s Countryfile.

    Stallion AI Services will be showcasing its work with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) and the Gene Bank on the episode airing on 7 January at 6.30pm.

    Adam Henson visits Tullis Matson’s Shropshire base to visit some stallions and to find out more about how the business is protecting rare breeds.

    Stallion AI Services is visited by some of the world’s top sires, including Big Star, Jaguar Mail and Ramiro B.

    It uses the latest technology in its work, which includes helping ensure the survival of endangered breeds.

    The company has also branched out from equines to help other rare and protected species, including elephants and rhinos, through its work with Chester Zoo and the RBST.

    The RBST launched its national livestock gene bank, with a campaign to save heavy horses, at a conference at Stallion AI Services in Shropshire on 28 September.

    The charity warned heavy horses will “die out within a decade” if action is not taken and put the cost at £375,000 to ensure enough Clydesdale, Shire and Suffolk horse genes are collected for the breeds to survive.

    While this particular campaign focuses on heavy horses, the RBST is working to preserve many other rare equine breeds.

    Eriskays, Cleveland bays, Dales and Hackneys are all on the RBST’s “critical” list, meaning there are fewer than 300 breeding mares of each registered in the UK.

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    It has been working with Stallion AI, Twemlows and West Kington Stud as well as breed societies to preserve rare equine breeds and ensure genetic material is collected and stored.

    At the conference, Tullis spoke about how staff have found ways to improve semen quality by adding extenders and how it is possible to collect and preserve semen from recently deceased stallions.

    Edward Matson, of neighbouring business Twemlows Stud Farm, spoke of techniques that can improve chances of a successful pregnancy.

    These include oocyte [egg] transfer; ICSI — intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg — and embryo transfers.

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