Shetland Cattle

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Shetland Cattle

With over 2000 years of history and development behind them, Shetland cattle have characteristics that are relevant to the challenges of farming and environmental conservation in the 21st Century.

Fact File

  • Shetlands are deep bodied cattle on short legs, fine boned and weighing between 350 and 500kg with the bulls rather heavier. They have distinctive horns, short but curving inwards and slightly upwards, “Viking” style.
  • They are small to medium in size, calm and easy to handle and are very inquisitive and friendly.
  • Shetland cattle are predominantly black and white with with about 10% red and white, but some of the old colours such as dun, grey and brindled are returning in small numbers. Shetland cattle are very hardy and readily out winter.
  • Shetlands are famed for their ease of calving when bred pure, helped by their pelvis width which is second only to the Jersey. They maintain a comparative advantage when crossed to larger beef bulls.
  • The Shetland evolved as a crofter’s cow being required to provide a plentiful milk supply for both its calve and the family, which explains the impressive liveweight gains of the calves.
  • Shetlands maintain a tight calving pattern and have the ability to calve every eleven months, even when put to a continental bull.
  • Shetlands have outstanding foraging ability and conversion efficiency, having evolved in one of the UK’s harshest and most impoverished environments. It is one of the toughest and most disease resistant of breeds and commonly continues to produce calves in its late teens.
  • The Rare Breeds Survival Trust classes the Shetland as “at risk”. It is in need of all the help it can get, yet with enormous commercial, conservation grazing and organic potential, in addition to its attractiveness to the smallholder, its future should be assured.

We currently have 6 cows, 2 calfs, Daisy and Nell, and our prize bull Archie.

 www.shetlandcattle.org.uk

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