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Frozen straw of bull semen creates new life on Caithness farm – 35 years on

By Alan Hendry

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The pedigree black Highland cow Tannach of Aviedale with her calf. Picture: Willie Mackay
The pedigree black Highland cow Tannach of Aviedale with her calf. Picture: Willie Mackay

A frozen straw of bull semen stored in liquid nitrogen for 35 years has produced a pedigree Highland heifer calf at a Caithness farm.

It follows a successful insemination at Toftingall Farm, Watten.

The mother, a six-year-old pedigree black Highland cow, Tannach of Aviedale, was inseminated with the straw of semen last year by local AI cattle breeding technician Willie Mackay.

He described the result as "amazing" – a heifer calf by Jock 26th of Leys Castle, from the last straw of that bull that Mr Mackay had in his Dewar flask.

Mr Mackay said: "I remember taking a delivery of Highland bull semen in straws in 1987 from the then Scottish Milk Marketing Board in Paisley. As long as there is liquid nitrogen in my flask, the semen will keep frozen indefinitely.

"I've tried to source some more of that bull, Jock 26th of Leys Castle, but there doesn't seem to be any around."

Proud owner Sheila Gillon, who is well known throughout the north of Scotland for breeding Highland cattle, was delighted it was a heifer calf.

Mrs Gillon has five pedigree Highland cows and five Shorthorn cross cows on her farm along with 34 Cheviot ewe hoggs.

The new arrival is named Trixie of Aviedale and will soon be registered with the Highland Cattle Society.

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