From the Farmers Guardian

AUGUST 15, 2003

Rare breeds to be exempted from culling

SELECTED farm animals considered 'indispensable' for the survival of their breed could receive special protection during future foot-and-mouth outbreaks, under proposals unveiled this week.

The Government is drawing up a register of animals that could be exempt from the requirement to cull all susceptible animals on infected holdings. As long as biosecurity on the holding was up to scratch and 'basic' EU interests, particularly the health status of other member states, were not endangered, the animals would probably be vaccinated instead. The decision would subject to veterinary advice.

This represents a major departure from the 2001 UK FMD outbreak when culling all animals on infected and farms deemed 'at risk' was the prevailing policy It reflects the added prominence given to emergency vaccination in the new EU Foot-and-Mouth Directive, agreed in June.

The Directive requires member states to put special measures in place to protect rare breeds in future outbreaks. It allows for the conservation of 'farm animal genetic resources' on premises identified in advance as a 'breeding nucleus' of animals 'indispensable for the survival of the breed'. In consultation papers unveiled on Monday DEFRA and the devolved authorities suggested a list of 70 rare breeds that should be covered. These include 24 breeds of cattle, 36 sheep breeds, eight pig breeds and two goat varieties. The breeds, based on a 2002 report on the UK's 'Farm Animal Genetic Resources', range from the very rare to the much more familiar. The cattle breeds, for example, include Swona, with just 10 registered breeding females, Chillingham with 17, as well as Short-horn with 3,500 breeding females and Sussex with 3,500. Among the sheep breeds are Boreray, with 93 breeding females, and Lonk, Ryeland and Badger Face Welsh, all with over 3,000.

Not included in the proposed list, however, are Herdwick or Rough Fell sheep, which, although not rare breeds, came close to being wiped out during the 2001 outbreak.

Within each breed, certain holdings with animals deemed vital to its survival will be registered and added to a list to enable rapid identification by the State Veterinary Service if disease strikes. Such holdings would have to have one breeding male and a minimum of eight female cows, 16 ewes, three sows and six goats to qualify.

The consultation papers seek views from interested parties on the criteria proposed for selecting the breeds and the specific holdings to be included on the list.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust welcomed the announcement. "We are extremely pleased this has come about and we look forward to taking it forward as quickly as possible," RBST marketing director Lynn Godsall said. Sam Jones, a spokesman for the Sheep Trust, set up to protect native sheep breeds in the wake of the FMD crisis by pre-serving genetic material, said the announcement was 'good news '' But our concern is what is not on the list. While most of our breeds are on it, Herdwicks and Rough Fells are not," he said.

Even though there are 'about 40 to 50,000 Herdwicks' on the Lake District's hills they along with breeds like Rough Fells, deserve protection because their geographical concentraion makes them vulnerable, he said.