A Somerset farmer is tapping into Asia’s demand for extra milk by exporting thousands of dairy cow embryos to countries across the continent.

Malcolm Pearce said population growth in Far Eastern countries, such as China, was driving the demand for extra milk.

One recent deal was completed with a woman from Mongolia who wanted 10,000 cattle, said Mr Pearce, from Frome.

But some farmers in Vietnam wanted to establish collective herds of 100,000 cattle, separated into small units, he added.

“I think it all started because of the desperately low milk price we were getting as farmers in the UK,” Mr Pearce told the BBC.

“I just had to do something to add value to the product.”

DEFRA and UK Trade and Investment helped Mr Pearce attend agricultural shows in four Chinese cities, where he found the demand for embryos was “absolutely enormous”.

“I couldn’t believe how welcome I was,” he said. “We think it’s too far to export live animals, so it’s very easy nowadays to create new herds with embryos in liquid nitrogen. You can take a whole herd of cows in a hip flask.”

The embryos were implanted in local cattle after arriving at their destinations, he explained.

His Chinese customers favoured the Montbeliarde breed, which produced about 15% more cheese for the same amount of milk.