Scottish sheep farmers have exported North Country Cheviot semen into the US for the first time in more than 30 years.

The semen imports are aimed at strengthening the gene pool of the American North Country Cheviot flock.

Top Scottish breeders Roderick Runciman and Andrew Polson were selected to export semen across the pond after US breeders sought genetic out crosses.

The move follows US president Joe Biden’s scrapping of the British beef and lamb import ban in September 2021, which had been in place since 1989 due to fears over the UK outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (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 severally restricted for more than three decades.


Runciman and Polson both put forward four rams each to donate the semen, with the process being managed by AB Europe, a supplier of assisted breeding services to the UK livestock industry.

Roderick Runciman with this son Lewis and their North Country Cheviot sheep.

It involved each ram being placed into isolation and undergoing a range of tests before the semen could be approved for export, which took almost a year to complete.

“The Americans are keen to improve the breed and they watch every sale and show and comment on them. They see when you win a show and they seemed to like my type.

“The Scottish blood will widen the gene pool but Rome wasn’t built in a day. 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,” Runciman said.

He added that the semen will enhance the characteristics of the American North Country Cheviots.

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