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Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the only charity dedicated to the conservation and development of the UK’s Native breeds of farm livestock and equines.

The aim is to secure the diversity of our livestock breeds and ensure their viability in the modern farming world. The farm animal genetic resources represented by these breeds can help farmer meet the challenges of sustainable farming in an era of climate change, increasing cost pressures and growing world population.

Our work falls into three categories: monitor, save, promote.

We monitor the number of rare and native breeds by collecting data from breed societies, using the number of animals registered in a year to estimate the total number of breeding females. From this we produce our annual Watchlist. We also monitor threats to breeds which include inbreeding and geographical concentration. We monitor and try to reduce these threats.

We save native farm animal genetics in our Gene Bank by collecting genetics in the form of semen and embryos from animals. This is our insurance policy and if a breed were to become extinct, we can use this store to revive a breed. In emergencies, RBST will also purchase genetically important livestock and place it in approved breeding centres.

We promote the breeding, registration and use of rare and native breeds. Together our staff, members and support groups provide a network of knowledge to support and encourage breeders. We also promote the use of rare and native breeds for food, fibre and conservation grazing.

We work directly with farmers and land owners highlighting how our native livestock breeds could be beneficial to their business. RBST and farm parks have always gone hand-in-hand. Joe Henson, the founding Chairman of RBST established the UK’s first farm park – now known to BBC TV’s Countryfile viewers as ‘Adam’s Farm’ – where members of the public could see native farm livestock at close quarters. Cotswold Farm Park opened its gates to the public in 1971 and today the RBST network of Approved Conservation Farm Parks and City Farms numbers over 20. They are spread across the UK and while they vary in size and character, they have one thing in common – a passion for rare breeds. And it is a passion they are keen to share with their visitors.

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