Landmark celebration for rare breed enthusiasts

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Rare Breed enthusiasts are celebrating a quarter of a century this weekend with their annual autumn show and sale at York Auction Centre.

Organisers said that it is an event that has grown beyond all expectations and that it remains vital that these breeds survive.

“We started off with two rows of pens, and now we fill the market,” says Fiona Fenton, who chairs the North Yorkshire support group for the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) under whose rules this show and sale are run. Almost 1,500 rare-breed animals and birds will go under the hammer today.

“The sale itself is for rare, and minority, native and unusual breeds,” said Roger Pearce from York Auction Centre, who is managing today’s sale.

“You can’t bring Charolais, Limousins or things like that but you can bring unusual native breeds.”

He believed that though these breeds aren’t in the mainstream of livestock farming it is vital that they survive.

“There’s an increasing awareness that we could lose these animals, and it is the smaller enthusiasts that are keeping them going,” said Mr Pearce “They are a gene pool, if they’re lost they’re gone forever. We keep finding new uses for these types of animals, in breeding, and cross-breeding.”

In the past there have been concerns some of the smallholders didn’t have the experience to look after livestock, but Roger Pearce said this is no longer the case.

“Because of the legislation you can’t just turn up and buy a couple of sheep, with the animal welfare and the foot and mouth regulations.”

Fiona Fenton, who keeps rare breed pigs on her smallholding, believes the Rare Breed Survival Trust has become a much more professional and efficient organisation in the 25 years since the first autumn show.

“The Rare Breed Survival Trust organisation is a lot better, but the actual livestock gets a higher profile than it used to do, but I don’t think the numbers have changed massively.”