It used to be just bulls that sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds at cattle auctions, with their female counterparts rarely at the centre of bidding wars.
But now a Limousin heifer called "Wilodge Poshspice" has changed everything, after smashing the record to become Britain's most expensive cow, selling for £262,000.
Breakthroughs in IVF methods mean heifers are no longer looked down upon by breeders, as they can now potentially have hundreds of offspring as opposed to just a handful of calves born naturally. As such, their value has soared.
Prior to the scientific breakthroughs, it was down to the bulls to do the heavy lifting, by inseminating as many heifers as possible – making them the stars of auctions.
The record breaking fee – double the previous record for a female Limousin cow – was settled at an auction in Cumbria, following a fierce bidding war between rival breeders keen to get their hands on her prized genetic make-up.
Poshspice's embryos can now be sold for several thousands of pounds each to dozens of other breeders for artificial insemination in their own herd, in the hope the cows will produce equally good progeny.
The sum fetched at Borderway Mart in Carlisle not only doubled the £131,250 record set in 2014 for the Limousin heifer Glenrock Illusion, but also far exceeded the record £147,000 paid for the Limousin bull Trueman Jagger in October 2015.
Will Ketley, breed secretary of the British Limousin Cattle Society, said: “Bulls used to fetch large amounts at auction because their semen was harvested and used with many cows.
“Developments in IVF mean you can now get many embios from the heifers for insemination in other cows for breeding, driving their value up.
“The buyers will look to recoup their money through breeding and the sale of both their cows’ progeny and their embryos.”
The amount paid for Posh is believed to be the highest ever paid for a heifer in the UK and across Europe for any breed.
The one-year-old, sold by Christine Williams and Paul Tippets, of Lodge Hill Farm, in Shifnal, Shropshire, caught the eye of bidders with her genetic qualities, including what experts describe as “larger loin depth, reduced-fat cover and greater meat tenderness”.
Posh was bought by the owners of two seperate breeding herds, Messrs Jenkinson, of Penrith, Cumbria, and Boden and Davies, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, who will now share the income they hope to gain from selling her embryos to other breeders.
The calves born as a result of this process will in turn be sold for breeding or to produce commercial animals for high-quality beef, hopefully recouping her cost several times over.
Craig Douglas, stockman at Messrs Jenkinson, said: “We have very high hopes for her and her progeny. She is from a great female line. Her dam [mother] breeds exceptionally well and has had an outstanding show career.
“Posh Spice’s sire [father] is one of the most recognised bulls in the Limousin breed, and all this is reflected in her price tag.”
Posh certainly has the right pedigree for the job. She was reared by Mrs Williams from her mother Ginger Spice, who was herself a three times show champion heifer. And from a young age Posh, like her Spice Girls namesake, had a certain air about her.
“She was always very smart, so the name fitted. She was a good calf and you could see she had a lot of potential, said Mrs Williams, 57, who established her herd in 1989 with her late father Don.
“Never in my wildest dreams did we imagine the kind of money we sold her for. We are still trying to get our heads round the price,” she added. “We just thought she would be on par with our other animals in the auction. I have been farming ever since I left school at the age of 16 and it was just nice in these uncertain times.”