Rare breeds have exciting role in region

Michael Pollitt, agricultural editorAn expanding role to promote native and rare breeds of farm animals will be part of a strategy to encourage specialist livestock keepers, East Anglian enthusiasts have been told.Michael Pollitt, agricultural editor

An expanding role to promote native and rare breeds of farm animals will be part of a strategy to encourage specialist livestock keepers, East Anglian enthusiasts have been told.

Tim Brigstocke, executive chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, said that the membership of about 8,500 was greater than the groups including National Sheep Association.

"We are really quite a big organisation, sometimes we have not flexed our muscles as much as we could have done. We are one conduit to get messages to small livestock keepers who are on the whole are ignored," said Mr Brigstocke.

"They talk about production agriculture or other groups but they don't talk about the small livestock community," he told about 30 members at the annual meeting of the RBST's East Anglian support group at the Scole Inn, near Diss.


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Since 1973, when the trust had been formed, not a single breed of farm livestock had become extinct. The Breeds at Risk Register, which was run with the British Pig Association for Defra would continue until March 2011.

The RBST has been looking at the possibility of adopting a new name on the lines of a Native Breeds' Trust, which would reflect the success in increasing populations of native species.

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While 13 breeds have come off the 'Watch List' of at-risk species, Mr Brigstocke said that native breeds would continue to enjoy support. "We have no intention of losing the RBST bit," he added.

Producers would be helped by the trust's "agisted stock" policy, which involved buying rare bloodlines, for example, Norfolk Horn sheep at Easton College.

Two rare Vaynol cattle from Temple Newsham, Leeds, were being kept by a Lincolnshire farmer, Neville Turner, and two Northern Dairy Shorthorns had been placed with another herd.

He said that the trust had recruited two field officers, Ruth Dolton, and Richard Broad, who would cover the north and south of Britain, along a line from North Wales to the Wash.

The RBST had been invited to join the Scottish government's "Operation Silver Birch" in late November, which would involve a simulation exercise for a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Mr Brigstocke said by working with groups such as the Rare Poultry Society and British Pig Association, progress was being made.

Members re-elected Gail Sprake, who keeps Southdown sheep in the Waveney Valley near Halesworth, as chairman, with Suzannah Coke as secretary.

The group would take part at the Mid-Suffolk Show on Sunday, April 11 at Stonham Barns, near Eye.

Apresentation was made to the retiring merchanise secretary, Roger Bowden, and his wife, Shirley, for more than 20 years' service.

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