THE Rare Breeds Survival Trust will be showcasing its work at this year’s Spring Festival on May 21 and 22.

The Trust was established by a group of individuals deeply concerned at the disappearance at an increasingly alarming rate of native breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, poultry and also horses and ponies, which were being rapidly replaced by modern breeds and hybrids to satisfy the demands of the changing commercial market.

The need was for animals which would, for example, be better converters of grass and forage crops to meat or milk. This led to the loss of initiatives to preserve the less efficient breeds.

For nearly 40 years now the trust’s work has been of major importance. Between 1900 and 1973 we lost 26 native breeds of livestock in this country but since the Trust’s formation not a single breed has become extinct. Compare this with the fact that throughout the world every month one breed of farm animal disappears forever.

Some examples of the Trust’s work can be seen at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s Spring Festival at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, on May 21 and 22.

This year visitors will be interested to watch a traditional, rare and native cattle breeds competition being judged by Adam Henson, a sheep farmer from the Cotswolds who is a presenter on the BBC Countryfile programme. He also runs the Cotswold Farm Park with its collection of over 50 breeding flocks and herds of British rare breed farm animals.

Smallholders have always been among those who have helped to preserve and support the older British breeds some of which will be on display at the festival.

Thus they may have helped to ensure the survival of domestic animals which today form a genetic pool from which many of the characteristics of modern breeds have been developed through national and artificial selection.

The festival provides an excellent opportunity for a close-up view of some of the magnificent old breeds which are being nurtured by farmers, smallholders and conservationists and anyone can contribute to the cause of their future well-being by strengthening the membership of the trust whose representatives will be on hand over the festival weekend to give advice, answer questions and explain to visitors what is being done to ensure a safe future for what is an important part of the nation’s heritage.