RBST forming new Northern Ireland-wide group to counter threats to rare breeds survival

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The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is inviting people interested in the UK’s rare breeds of livestock and equines to join a new Northern Ireland-wide group.

The group will tackle serious new threats to these breeds’ futures in Northern Ireland, and show why native breeds should be central to a sustainable future for farming.

The group will take action to support a strong future for native breeds across the country, which includes countering the major challenges that have been posed in the Northern Ireland Executive’s proposals for future agriculture policy and by the impacts of post-Brexit trade restrictions on vital breeding programmes.

The formation of the new RBST Northern Ireland Support Group will create an active and representative network for supporters of rare breeds from across the whole of Northern Ireland to create a stronger, cohesive voice for rare breeds.

RBST Northern Ireland Support Group officers, from left, Aaron Kirkpatrick, Andrew Bingham and Gavin Goodman.RBST Northern Ireland Support Group officers, from left, Aaron Kirkpatrick, Andrew Bingham and Gavin Goodman.
RBST Northern Ireland Support Group officers, from left, Aaron Kirkpatrick, Andrew Bingham and Gavin Goodman.

Christopher Price, Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive, said: “People in Northern Ireland have been working hard for decades, with a lot of enthusiasm and expertise, to support a strong future here for the UK’s irreplaceable rare breeds. We are now faced with significant and sweeping new policy challenges which call for a NI-wide response. Farming with native breeds often supports local supply chains and at very high welfare and environmental standards, and there is a lot of support in Northern Ireland for future public funding to farms being based on environmental and animal welfare improvements.

“But the plans in the Northern Ireland Executive’s proposed agriculture policy for a 24-month beef limit will severely hamper farming with the slow-growing native cattle breeds. And another major challenge lies in post-Brexit trade restrictions making it very difficult and expensive to import the new livestock which are essential to genetic diversity when a breed has low numbers. The new group will be integral to RBST’s work to tackle these major challenges.”

Brian O’Kane, Irish Moiled Cattle Society chairperson, added: “I think it is very important that there is a group within the RBST representing the native breeds in Northern Ireland. The various breed societies do a fantastic job at promoting their own breeds through agricultural shows and various other events but it is essential that we have a collective voice pushing our case at a higher level. This is especially important when it comes to engaging with government departments. A group representing Northern Ireland is essential to promoting the importance of Native breeds in a sustainable agricultural industry.”

Aaron Kirkpatrick, who keeps rare Castlemilk Moorit sheep in Ballygowan, County Down, is the new RBST Northern Ireland Support Group’s secretary.

A rare Irish Moiled cow.A rare Irish Moiled cow.
A rare Irish Moiled cow.

He commented: “The new group will represent the many interests within rare breeds survival from the unique characteristics of each breed and their conservation, to regenerative agriculture and improving biodiversity through conservation grazing, and from high quality food and wool production, to education and youth work. I’m keen to hear from anyone with an interest in rare livestock or equine breeds who would be interested in joining the new RBST Northern Ireland Support Group, either to play an active role in the group’s Committee, or to take part in conservation programmes and help promote the breeds at shows or events, or simply to join our mailing list to hear more about our plans and projects.”

To find out how to join the group, email [email protected]