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Sheep: Conservation

Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding his Department has provided for the protection of the Herdwick indigenous sheep flock in each year since 1997. (303627)

In 2001, DEFRA granted £10,000 to create the Heritage Gene Bank which was set up to preserve semen and embryos from breeds considered to be at risk due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak of the time. The Herdwick was one of the breeds considered to be at risk because the majority of its breeding population were in or near to areas heavily affected by FMD.

DEFRA recognises the need to have a long term view on managing the genetic health of our livestock breeding population and the need for a co-ordinated effort to support initiatives that will encourage the characterisation, conservation and utilisation of our livestock genetic resources—which includes rare, mainstream and heritage livestock breeds. The National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources is currently advising Ministers on implementing the UK's national action plan on farm animal genetic resources which was published in 2006.

In England, from next year, the use of hardy native sheep breeds will be one of the factors contributing points towards eligibility for payments under the new Uplands Entry Level Stewardship Scheme. Although not confined to Herdwicks, those with Herdwick sheep may be able to gain benefits under the scheme which will thereby provide indirect support for the breed.