North Country Cheviot semen exported to US after 30 years

Semen from North Country Cheviot rams has been exported to the US for the first time in more than 30 years, to help strengthen the gene pool of the American flock.

The move follows Washington’s scrapping of the beef and lamb import ban in September 2021, which had been in place since 1989 due to fears over the UK outbreak of BSE.

As well as meat, the ban included semen and embryos, meaning the US gene pool for native breeds such as the North Country Cheviot has been restricted for more than three decades.

See also: New British food attaché in Washington seeks to lift meat exports

Scottish breeders Roderick Runciman and Andrew Polson were selected to export the semen across the pond after US breeders expressed a desire for Caithness and border-type genetics.

Mr Polson said: “I was contacted directly by a breeder in the States whose grandfather was from Caithness.

“They had seen some of my sheep, and Roderick’s, go into the sale ring and because of that we were asked to supply semen.”

The process of testing the semen from eight rams for export approval was managed by AB Europe, a supplier of assisted breeding services to the UK livestock industry, and took almost a year to complete.

Mr Runciman said the Scottish bloodline would widen the gene pool and enhance the characteristics of the US North Country Cheviots.

“It isn’t going to suddenly make them into the quality we see over here, but I do think it’s a big step forward to improving the genetics across the pond.”