The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) 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 plans to 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 RBST said that the formation of a 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

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 Northern Ireland-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.

“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.”