Now if you follow me on Twitter, you will hear me banging on and on about rare and native breeds of livestock, so when I got the opportunity to work alongside a rare and native breed of cattle, I jumped at the chance! I now work on a beef cattle farm in Dover, Kent that has a herd of around 50 Shetland Cattle.
But what is so special about Shetland Cattle..?
1. Because they are used to the harsh conditions of Shetland, a lot of rain and even more wind, they are extremely hardy.
2. They’re not fussy eaters – they enjoy browsing and survive well on poor grazing. This means less time and money spent on feeding concentrates. A typical Shetland will be ready for slaughter within 30 months living off just grass.
3. Shetlands are easy to handle due to their calm natures and small-medium size.
4. Shetland Cattle are a dual purpose breed meaning they can be used for beef and/or dairy.
5. They remain fertile for a long time – Shetlands are known for being very fertile and being able to breed way into their teens and in some cases their twenties!
6. The breed have very wide pelvises (second only to the Jersey in pelvis width) meaning they find it easier to calve as they are less likely to run into difficulties during the birth.
7. They are gorgeous, with their distinctive black and white or red and white (usually) markings and viking-style horns!
8. Their produce is good for you – their meat and milk is proven to contain high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid, a healthy fatty acid which may have anti-carcinogenic properties.
9. They are the ideal breed for conservation grazing due to their light frame and large feet, as this protects soft grazing, and they eat a wide range of shrubs and grasses.
10. They bounced back from near extinction in 1950s, when only 40 pure bred animals remained. Although they are still classed as a rare breed, their numbers are on the rise as their suitability for conservation grazing is appreciated.
11. There are no diseases associated with the breed and they are not prone to picking up certain illnesses, they are pretty healthy little things perhaps due to the harsh environments they have been brought up in!
See, aren’t they great?