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RBST Press Release: More Good News for Native Livestock Breeds

News Date: 05.05.2010

Conservation of the UK’s rare and native breeds of farm livestock continue to bear fruit as the latest figures from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) show.  The Trust has published its 2010 Watchlist, which shows increasing numbers for important breeds of both cattle and pigs.
The highlight amongst the cattle breeds is the British White, which has made the important step from Watchlist category 5 (Minority) to 6, joining the 13 other breeds that since the formation of  RBST have successfully increased their population to be officially ranked as Other Native Breeds.
According to the British White Cattle Society (BWCS), the breed is probably more successful now than at any time in its long history.  British Whites can claim direct links with the ancient indigenous wild white cattle of Great Britain and today’s breed can be traced back as far as 1553.  When RBST was founded in 1973, registrations had fallen to just 40 per year but working with the Trust, the BWCS has seen the population recover to a position which enables it to exploit its significant commercial potential.  A naturally polled, hardy, milky and easy calving breed, the British White is ideally suited to a role in suckler beef production and it produces the ideal bull for use on beef and dairy heifers.
In the pig categories, there have been a number of significant movements.  With the Middle White moving from category 2 (endangered) to 3 (vulnerable), there now remains just one breed, the British Lop, officially categorised as endangered.  Other breeds that have improved their numbers and moved down categories include the British Saddleback, Tamworths, Welsh and Berkshires.
The Middle White, first recognised as a breed in 1852, is distinguished by its short, rather squashed-looking nose.  As a “porker”, the Middle White won popularity with butchers everywhere, particularly in London where it was known as the London Porker as the carcases could be cut into the small joints favoured in the first part of the 20th century.  The breed also found particular favour in Japan in the 1930s:  it was the only pork that the Emperor would eat and the breed has even had a statue erected there in honour of its “outstanding eating qualities”. 
The dramatic decline of the Middle White came with the Second World War and meat rationing, which saw a concentration on the bacon pig.    However, a small band of dedicated breeders ensured the continuation of the breed and now demand for meat with good eating qualities has once more focussed attention on the breed and its qualities are much appreciated by top restaurants. 
Commenting on the figures revealed on this year’s Watchlist, RBST Conservation Officer Claire Barber says:  “There have been some encouraging movements between categories for some breeds and even where some breeds have remained in the same category, there is a trend for a growth in numbers.  However, with some breeds we are also seeing trends of decreasing numbers of registered breeding females, which although not sufficient to move Watchlist category are worrying. 
“RBST is particularly delighted to see the British White moving into category 6.  However, we would always emphasise that while those breeds in our ‘Other Native Breeds’ category might be considered by some to be out of danger they still need our continuing support and help to ensure that numbers continue to grow and that they are not at risk due to other factors.  Our native breeds have a very real role to play in the future of British farming.”
Note to editors:
For photographs, please contact linda.trotman@btinternet.com
Note to Editors
1. For further details contact RBST on 024 7669 6551
2. RBST was established in 1973 as the world’s first national non-governmental organisation created for the genetic conservation of farm animal genetic resources. During the first seven decades of the 1900’s, 26 native breeds of livestock became extinct in Britain. Since the formation of the RBST no native breeds have been lost.
3. The RBST Watchlist is published each year which monitors the registered adult breeding female numbers and vulnerability of native breeds. In 2009 an additional category of Geographical Concentration was published.

4. Information on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust can be found at: http://www.rbst.org.uk