RBST celebrates Marsh Awards

Article posted Tuesday 26th February 2013
RBST celebrates Marsh Awards

The 2013 RBST Watchlist Presentation on 14th February saw three RBST supporters gain recognition for their efforts in conserving the UK’s rare native breeds of livestock.  Winners Professor John Woolliams and RBST members Eric Freeman and Robin Otter received the Marsh Awards from HRH The Prince of Wales, the charity’s patron, at the event which was held at the Royal Society in London. 

The Awards are the brainchild of Brian Marsh OBE, Chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust. The Awards are designed to recognise, amongst others, unsung heroes from within the scientific fields of genetic biodiversity and conservation biology.  The Awards programme works with partner organisations like RBST, who recommend a shortlist of worthy award winners with the final decision lying with the Marsh Award Trustees.

Professor Woolliams received the award for Conservation in Genetic Biodiversity for his work inboth theoretical and applied aspects of genetics in managed populations. He is recognised as a world authority on the genetic management of breeds of farm livestock with small populations and the ‘unified theory of genetic gain and variance’ he and his co-workers developed has applications to genetic conservation not just for rare breeds, but more widely, such as in the genetic management of numerically abundant but inbred populations such as Holstein-Friesians.

Professor Woolliams’interest in the long-term genetic contribution of an ancestor has been of great value to the RBST’s use of ‘Geneped’ breed pedigreesanalyses, changing the emphasis towards consideration of the relatedness of individuals (i.e. ‘kinship’) in the extant population. His advice on how to measure and interpret such kinship analyses is now being passed on to breeders by the Trust’s conservation staff, and many breeders are adopting the advice with consequent enhanced conservation of the genetic resource of their breed.

RBST was also delighted to announce two awards in the Lifetime Achievement category for Eric Freeman and Robin Otter. Both men have spent their lives conserving the rare breeds of their home county of Gloucestershire. Robin Otter was a council member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust during the innovative years of the 1970s and again in the early 1990s. His enthusiasm and determination helped to guide the charity in its successful conservation work. He is a founder member of the Gloucester Cattle Society; its first President and he spent nearly 25 years on the council of the society. The Kemerton Herd of Gloucester cattle, founded by Robin and his wife Liza, has had a huge influence in preserving and promoting Gloucester cattle and continues to do so. Sadly, Robin Otter was unable to attend the ceremony due to reasons of ill health and Eric Freeman collected the award on his behalf.

Eric Freeman is a founder member of the Gloucester Cattle Society; he has been its President and remained the longest serving council member, retiring in 2009. He is also a founder member of the Gloucestershire Old Spots Breeders Club and ex-President of the Cotswold Sheep Society. One of the earliest members of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, he has worked tirelessly to promote the qualities of rare breeds: he conducts talks, holds farm walks and encourages all to share his love of wildlife and native farm breeds. Receiving the award, Eric spoke of the ‘marvellous thrill’ of originally saving the breeds in the 1970s and said that his current passion was encouraging young people to keep rare breeds.

Eric can be heard talking about his life with rare breeds this Sunday 3rd March on the BBC Radio 4’s ‘On Your Farm’ programme at 06.35am. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r08cw
Professor Woolliams is speaking at the RBST Seminar 'Native Breeds for Modern Needs' at the British Society of Animal Science Conference on April 16th at the University of Nottingham.

The photos show Professor Woolliams making his acceptance speech and Eric Freeman receiving his award from HRH The Prince of Wales.

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