The future of the British Lop, which for many years has been one of our rarest native pig breeds, will now be more secure.

This is thanks to a generous donation of £94,500 from the Gerald Fallowes Discretionary Trust in support of the Rare Breeds Survival Trusts’ pig conservation work.

In a new three-strand project to be carried out in association with the British Lop Pig Society (BLPS), Deerpark Pedigree Pigs and other partners, the RBST will be applying cutting-edge genomics, new boar semen collections and advanced embryo work.

To launch the project, an event was help yesterday (25 June) at Trevaskis Farm, in Hayle, Cornwall. Attendees from all over the Country travelled for the day to attend project discussions and take part in a farm tour to see the Bezurrell herd of British Lops held by kind permission of the Eustice Family.

Smallholder:

Visitors saw the largest herd in the world of the breed, between 60 and 70 breeding sows

The British Lop as a breed is described by the BLPS as docile and easily managed, making an excellent mother pig. They are reared outside, free range, and piglets stay with their mothers until they naturally wean.

The breed gives a moist and creamy textured pork, and is only bred by a few select breeders who prioritise the purity of the breed and its traceability.

The grant will be spread over the course of a five-year project. Genomic work will be carried out to establish a profile for the breed, which will make it the only native breed to have such a modern scientific test for breed purity. By understanding the genetic information, it will make it possible to test the purity of the animal or animal products being offered for sale.

Smallholder:

The breed is named after it's distinctive ears

RBST will collect genetic material from 15 boars, and one focus will be 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 then 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 hopefully be followed by successful collections of embryos later in the project.

Giles Eustice, Chairman of the British Lop Pig Society, said: "The Eustices have been keeping British Lops since at least 1868 but probably before that. It's a big part of our family heritage. The breed matches into my business perfectly.

"We have a business where customers are a little more discerning, they want a high quality product and the British Lop is a fantastic pork product. We've worked hard at it but I'm fortunate that I can look after the family jewels of the heritage and history and look after the breed. I'm passionate about the survival of the breed.

Smallholder:

Giles Eustice with Bezurrell Actress number 317, winner of Interbreed Champion at Royal Three Counties

"There’s so much potential for this project, maybe even enabling us to export to the States. I’m pretty sure something with a name like ‘the British Lop’ might go down pretty well over there."

The farm tour was followed by a butchery demonstration with resident butcher Peter Davis. Peter spoke about how popular the pork they produce is, with the farm selling between 15 and 20 pigs a week.

He said: "With the British Lop, you’re going back to the original pork days. A lot of people come in and say ‘why is your pork different to any other pork?’ It’s because it’s slow reared. I've been a butcher for 40 years and these are the best pigs I've ever butchered."

Smallholder:

Visitors were treated to a butchery demonstration from resident butcher Peter Davis

Former Farming Minister and MP for Camborne and Redruth George Eustice spoke at the event. He said that our native breeds are a public good which must be supported in the Agriculture Bill.

Mr Eustice said: "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 am delighted that the British Lop has been chosen as the breed to pilot this approach.

Smallholder:

George Eustice speaking at the launch

“Protecting the genetic diversity that exists within our rare breeds and native breeds is a crucial public good that should be explicitly provided for in the new Agriculture Bill. The genetic resources contained within rare and native breeds gives our livestock industry the ability to adapt to new challenges around disease and to changing approaches in livestock husbandry.

"Defra already supports genetic diversity in crops through projects like the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, the National Pea Collection and the Millenium Seed Bank. It is time for diversity in farm animal genetics to be placed on the same footing and recognised and supported as a public good.”