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‘Beacon of hope’ could help save iconic Suffolk Punch

PUBLISHED: 16:30 16 July 2020

The new Suffolk Punch filly which has been born using innovative techniques Picture: STALLION AI

The new Suffolk Punch filly which has been born using innovative techniques Picture: STALLION AI

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A potential ‘beacon of hope’ has been found which could help ensure the survival of the Suffolk Punch.

A new Suffolk Punch filly could hold the key for the future of the species Picture: STALLION AIA new Suffolk Punch filly could hold the key for the future of the species Picture: STALLION AI

An innovative breeding technique has been used to help ensure the birth of a filly Suffolk Punch foal.

The technique uses sex-sorted sperm to determine the gender of the foal which are then selected for artificial insemination.

It’s the first time that it has been used to support the survival of rare breeds.

The Suffolk Punch remains critically endangered with fewer than 70 females of breeding age remaining in the UK, so the birth of new fillies is important to the breed’s survival.

A filly foal has been born using a new technique Picture: STALLION AIA filly foal has been born using a new technique Picture: STALLION AI

Of the Suffolk Punch foals born last year 19 were colts and only 15 fillies.

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The technique was used to successfully bread a Suffolk Punch mare named Ruby, who is owned by Nottingham Trent University, and Suffolk stallion Holbeach Iggy owned by Holbeache Suffolks.

The resulting filly, was born on the second round of treatment.

In 2019 Tullis Matson, owner and managing director of Stallion AI Services – a UK based centre of excellence for equine reproduction – and supporter of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, saw an opportunity to use a new technological advancement in the sex sorting of equine semen, to provide a lifeline to Britain’s critically endangered rare and native horses.

“To be able to use our reproduction expertise in this way, to help preserve an irreplaceable part of our magnificent heavy horse heritage is something we have been working towards for many years,” said Mr Matson.

“The challenges have been great and many but watching the birth of this beautiful, healthy filly foal was a truly magical experience.”

Dr Gareth Starbuck, Head of Animal and Equine Sciences in Nottingham Trent University, said: “The birth of this foal marks a major step towards securing the future of the Suffolk Horse and all other rare animal breeds.”

Chairman of the Suffolk Horse Society, Mark Donsworth, said: “This goes to show what can be achieved when organisations work together.

“This has been a real collaboration, making use of scientific advancements to further our aims of preserving this important breed, and we were pleased to support and be involved in this project.”


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