Rare Breed Conservation

Grassroots has worked closely for many years with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and in more recent years has been instrumental in establishing and populating the National Breed Monitoring System for the Defra Farm Animal Genetic Resources (FAnGR) committee.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is the umbrella organisation working to help ensure the survival of all our native breeds of farm livestock. They classify those breeds according to the ‘risk of extinction’ into categories 1 to 5, and then they monitor the remaining native breeds. Grassroots provide software systems to all but 4 of the breeds on RBST Watch List (Category 1 to 5) plus 13 of the native breeds.

Kinship Analysis and Breeding advice - Grassroots provide the RBST with software systems to enable them to work with the Breed Societies to help monitor their populations and develop conservation breeding programmes. Within Grassroots, Breed Secretaries are able to carry out kinship analysis and advise members against matings which are too closely related and would result in increased levels of ‘inbreeding’.

Geneped Pedigree Breed Analysis - in 2005 Grassroots wrote a specialist piece of software for the RBST to carry out a ‘state of the breed’ analysis based on the pedigree information held in the Grassroots databases. This looks at the rate of change of inbreeding over time, the level of genetic loss within the breed, geographical concentration and helps to identify potential donors for the long term semen and embryo cryogenic store.

RBST Cryogenic semen and embryo bank - Grassroots created a system in 2008 for the RBST to manage their long term cryogenic store of semen and embryo, and mechanisms to identify potential donors which are unrelated to the current collection.

FAnGR Monitoring - In compliance with their international commitments to biodiversity Defra is obliged to monitor the population sizes of livestock breeds in the UK. Traditionally this was done via a once every ten year census carried out on paper. Grassroots worked with the FAnGR committee on a pilot scheme and now provides statistical data annually. This is taken from the Grassroots breed society databases and can be viewed here.