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190627 | Cornish launch for ground-breaking project to secure future of rare British Lop pigs

Cornish launch for ground-breaking project to secure future of rare British Lop pigs

There are believed to be only between 100 and 200 females left in the country

The future of the British Lop, one of the country's rarest native pig breeds, will now be more secure thanks to the launch of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's British Lop ProjectThe future of the British Lop, one of the country's rarest native pig breeds, will now be more secure thanks to the launch of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's British Lop Project (Image: Rare Breeds Survival Trust)

A ground-breaking project to secure the future of one of the country's rarest native pig breeds has been launched in Cornwall this week.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) British Lop Project has been made possible thanks to a massive £94,000 grant from the Gerald Fallowes Discretionary Trust in support of the charity’s pig conservation work.

Hosting the official launch event on Tuesday, June 25 at Trevaskis Farm near Hayle were the Eustice family, whose Bezurrell herd of British Lops is the largest in the breed.

George Eustice speaking at the launch of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) British Lop Project, held at his family's Trevaskis Farm near Hayle

George Eustice speaking at the launch of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) British Lop Project, held at his family's Trevaskis Farm near Hayle (Image: Rare Breeds Survival Trust)

George Eustice, MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, explained: “My great grandfather was one of the founders of the National Long White Lop Eared Pig Society, now known simply as the British Lop.

“This ground-breaking project to enhance and improve genetics in one of our rarest native pig breeds is crucial work and I’m delighted that the British Lop has been chosen as the breed to pilot this approach.”

The new five-year project, also in partnership with the British Lop Pig Society and Deerpark Pedigree Pigs, will involve cutting-edge genomic work, boar semen collections and advanced embryo work.

Genomic work will be carried out to establish a profile for the breed, which will make the British Lop the only native breed to have such a modern scientific test for breed purity. By understanding genetic information, it will make it possible to test the purity of the animal or animal products being offered for sale.

A British Lop sow and her piglets. Only between 100 and 200 breeding females are left in the country, according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's 2019-20 Watchlist

A British Lop sow and her piglets. Only between 100 and 200 breeding females are left in the country, according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's 2019-20 Watchlist (Image: Rare Breeds Survival Trust)

Also as part of the project, the RBST will collect genetic material from 15 boars, and one focus will be on the ‘recycling’ of frozen semen pellets, known to be difficult to use, which enable genetically distinct boars to be bred early in the project and collected from later. It is hoped that collections can be made from these newly bred boars using more modern and efficient techniques.

Finally, research will be carried out into the collection, freezing and long-term storage of pig embryos, which will then hopefully be followed with successful collections of embryos later in the project.

The launch event at Trevaskis Farm also saw Giles Eustice, chairman of the British Lop Pig Society, welcome guests and lead a tour of the Bezurrel herd while Richard Broad, field officer for the RBST, outlined the project’s main objectives.

Gail Sprake, chairman of the RBST, said: “The aim is to secure the future of the British Lop forever. It will enable us to fill our National Gene Bank for the breed, and also safeguard the breed against diminishing numbers and potential threats posed by disease outbreak. This will be the ultimate genetic insurance policy.”

Giles Eustice, chairman of the British Lop Pig Society, winning interbreed pig champion at the 2019 Royal Three Counties Show with his British Lop sow, Bezurrell Actress 374

Giles Eustice, chairman of the British Lop Pig Society, winning interbreed pig champion at the 2019 Royal Three Counties Show with his British Lop sow, Bezurrell Actress 374 (Image: Anthony Mosley)

According to the RBST’s 2019-20 Watchlist, which is based on estimated numbers of registered breeding females, the British Lop falls into the endangered category with only 100-200 sows. British Lops are joined in this category by the British Landrace, Large Black and Middle White breeds.

Pig breeds classed as vulnerable (200-300) on the RBST Watchlist are the Berkshire, Large White and Tamworth.

 

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