We must not lose the diversity of our native breeds.

Jimmy Doherty, RBST President

Why we do what we do:

Economic:  increased diversity enables faster development of new traits.

Native breeds provide a major contribution to our rural economy, both economic and culturally.  There are around 30,000 herds and flocks of native breeds in the UK.  They contribute over £700 million to UK local economies.

Social and cultural:  native breeds are part of our national identity and heritage – and they represent a unique piece of the earth’s biodiversity.  We have inherited a rich variety of livestock breeds and their loss would impoverish agriculture and diminish the human spirit.  We must work together, for the sake of future generations, to safeguard these treasures.

Choice: today’s consumer choices are increasingly influenced by environmental and welfare concerns and by tastes for speciality products.  We must seize the opportunity this offers.

Environment:  grazing with native breeds plays an important role in the development and maintenance of natural habitats and increasing biodiversity.

Risk reduction:  genetic resistance is increasingly important for the control of animal diseases, today and in the future.  Saving our native breeds can help us to face as yet unknown challenges in the form of disease resistance and susceptibility, climate adaptation, food security and resilience.

Growing global population and improvements in standards of living mean that there is a rapidly increasing demand for animal protein, with intensified animal production.  This places increased risks and pressures on our natural resources, not least land and water.  It is our task to protect our food and farming systems by maintaining secure alternative livestock genetic resources.

Research:  there is still much to understand regarding nutrition, reproduction, disease resistance and susceptibility.  Breed diversity will help research into these areas for both livestock and humans.

How we do it: 

Monitor.

We monitor the number of rare and native breeds. Every year we collect data from breed societies and use the number of animals registered in a year to estimate the total number of breeding females. From this we produce our annual Watchlist.

We monitor threats to breeds. Other factors can threaten our breeds such as inbreeding and geographical concentration. We monitor and try to reduce these. 

Save.

We save genetics in the UK National Gene Bank. We collect genetics from animals, usually semen from males but also embryos. This is our insurance policy. If a breed were to become extinct, we can use this store to revive a breed.

We save animals. In emergencies, RBST will buy genetically important stock and place it in approved breeding centres.

Promote.

We promote the breeding and registration of rare and native breeds. Together our staff, members and support groups provide a network of knowledge to support and encourage breeders. 

We promote the use of rare and native breeds for Food, Fibre and Conservation Grazing