Watchlist highlights native livestock successes – and the rare breeds at risk of dying out
PUBLISHED: 08:27 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:24 23 April 2020
Rare native livestock breeds have the potential to flourish under post-Brexit farming policies, said a conservation charity after publishing its latest Watchlist.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) works across the UK to monitor and safeguard rare livestock and horses, collating data from breed societies to estimate the total number of registered breeding females as a barometer for their population sizes.
The charity’s latest Watchlist for 2020-21 shows it has been a good year for Bagot goats, Vaynol cattle and Border Leicester sheep, while declining numbers of animals including Albion cattle, Large Black pigs and Hackney horses are a “particular cause for concern”.
The publication follows a government announcement that the conservation of native livestock and equine breeds is a public benefit which would qualify for payment under the new “public money for public goods” agricultural policy which is due to replace the EU’s system of land-based subsidies as they are phased out after Brexit.
RBST chief executive Christopher Price said rare breeds now have a sound platform to revive their numbers and bring new levels of environmental, economic and cultural benefit to the countryside.
He said: “Government’s recognition that native breed conservation is a public benefit opens the way for many more farmers, smallholders and landowners to keep rare breeds. In doing so they can be part of the important conservation effort for some of our country’s most striking and most treasured breeds, while also assuring themselves of a new, stable income stream.
“Our 2020-21 Watchlist shows that the great efforts of rare breed keepers alongside our conservation programmes, over many years, are delivering real results. Numbers of Bagot goats have doubled in a decade and continue to grow, Vaynol cattle numbers have increased significantly this year and Border Leicesters have had their best year since they joined the Watchlist. These rare breeds, and many others that RBST monitors and supports, are in a good position to swell their numbers as interest grows in keeping native breeds.
“However, there are breeds in all our livestock and equine categories which remain at real risk of dying out. The declining numbers of Albion cattle, Large Black pigs and Hackney horses are a particular cause for concern this year. We have vital conservation programmes underway to save breeds most at risk, and we thank all those whose support and donations are making possible this crucial ongoing work.”
The Watchlist shows that Whitefaced Woodland and North Ronaldsay sheep, Gloucester cattle, Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies, and Tamworth and Saddleback pig numbers are also down from last year’s tally, while Lonk sheep have entered the Watchlist into Category 5 (Minority). The RBST said efforts are underway to account for and address these declines.
English goats have entered the Watchlist for the first time, classified as “critically endangered”.
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