Shetland Cattle- The Ustaness Herd


Our Shetland Kye-Ustaness Herd

I first registered the ‘Ustaness’ herd in 1992 when we were living on the croft of that name situated on South Whiteness on the Mainland. After we bought Uradale and decided to move there, the herd went with us and grew. Uradale is a valley just off the beaten track and overlooking Cliff Sound and Trondra. All our farm production is now Organic having started the conversion in 2000. My reasoning for the change to a new system was based on a desire to market Native livestock rather than the more established crossbreeds, 
which were not paying their way.

 I remember buying my first Shetland cow, she was called Murrister Kate and was bred by Bertie Moar. Although there were a few more cows by then following the efforts of a handful of remarkable folk, they were desperate to encourage more. I became gripped by a fascination of the native breeds of Shetland.
I have built up the herd to follow what I think are historical suckler cow types. Shetland kye are not a dual-purpose breed, but a multi-purpose one. So the animals possess many features, which can be brought out by selective breeding, and were. For my farm I want cows that are healthy, moderately milky and of small to medium size. Bulls need to have good temperament and good movement.

Cropping includes grass silage, barley and a little bere with the emphasis on self-sufficiency for feeding. A lot of the land is steep hill so cows must be fit enough to range over the slopes and make best use of the natural vegetation. Year-olds and bulls are out-wintered with cows and calves kept inside in winter.


The herd in 2010 comprised 32 cows and 8 heifers. I try to keep 2 bulls of separate bloodlines which then means cows need not become too closely bred. I have in previous years cross bred with various breeds, especially the Hereford. However since converting to Organic and with the intention of marketing native Shetland beef, concentrating on purely Shetland is my focus.
Ustaness cattle have been shown at local events including the Centenary Show, where I was extremely pleased to have the Best Cow. It made all the effort worthwhile! 


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