Thumbs up to water­fowl registry

By Ge­off Chase

Country Smallholding - - Inside this month -

In the UK it is recog­nised that there are in ex­cess of 160 na­tive breeds of cat­tle, sheep, goats, pigs, poul­try and horses, around 100 of which are at risk. In the case of poul­try, in­clud­ing water­fowl, there are prob­a­bly many more which should be recog­nised.

There are many good rea­sons for hav­ing a registry scheme for do­mes­tic breeds of live­stock. There has long been a reg­is­ter of large species of do­mes­tic an­i­mal, which is legally bind­ing. Cat­tle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and trace­abil­ity are recog­nised as im­por­tant for dis­ease con­trol and also for main­tain­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in farm pro­duce. There are stan­dards and rules for iden­ti­fy­ing and con­trol­ling cat­tle move­ment to pre­vent and trace the spread of dis­ease.

Of di­rect rel­e­vance to the preser­va­tion of rare breeds is the fact that dis­ease and con­se­quent culling by of­fi­cials that re­sults in the slaugh­ter of a flock could wipe out valu­able ge­netic re­sources of a breed which will, by def­i­ni­tion, be held by a rel­a­tively small num­ber of breed­ers.

It is also ob­vi­ously nec­es­sary to have some idea of numbers in or­der to know whether a breed is ac­tu­ally rare.

A legally bind­ing equiv­a­lent sys­tem to live­stock for poul­try does not ex­ist and would ob­vi­ously be im­prac­ti­cal to ad­min­is­ter. Breed­ers of live­stock in gen­eral and poul­try in par­tic­u­lar tend to be sus­pi­cious of of­fi­cial­dom and re­luc­tant to have their names on a list. How­ever, there is a se­ri­ous risk of los­ing valu­able breed­ing stock, so it would ob­vi­ously be a good move if rare breeds had some mea­sure of ex­emp­tion from culling. Re­cent Avian ’flu out­breaks have raised the like­li­hood of such events.

Breeds At Risk reg­is­ter

In com­mon with other or­gan­i­sa­tions across the world, the Farm An­i­mal Ge­netic Re­sources Com­mit­tee (FAnGR), which gives ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment on the con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able use of farm an­i­mal ge­netic re­sources, de­vel­oped bio­di­ver­sity in­di­ca­tors to iden­tify na­tive breeds at risk. As a re­sult, FAnGR pro­duced a Breeds at Risk reg­is­ter, which gives a mea­sure of pro­tec­tion for an­i­mals rep­re­sent­ing th­ese breeds. Un­for­tu­nately, poul­try have been re­moved from the list, so, in the event of a dis­ease out­break, there can be no dero­ga­tion from slaugh­ter.

It should be noted that the Rare Breed Sur­vival Trust (RBST) Watch­list still cov­ers poul­try which are of con­cern and it seeks to pro­mote the main­te­nance of th­ese breeds.

The cri­te­ria for in­clu­sion on the RBST Watch­list are that the breed is doc­u­mented as orig­i­nat­ing within the UK, that it has been present within the coun­try for 40 years plus six gen­er­a­tions (where a gen­er­a­tion is two years for poul­try), and not more than 20% of the ge­netic con­tri­bu­tions come from an­i­mals born out­side the UK (other than those im­ported for an ap­proved con­ser­va­tion project) in any gen­er­a­tion for the last 40 years plus six gen­er­a­tions.

An im­ported breed may be con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion on the Watch­list on the grounds that the UK has be­come the main breed­ing cen­tre for it or the orig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion that is se­ri­ously en­dan­gered or ex­tinct, or it has

un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant breed de­vel­op­ment within the UK to dis­tin­guish it from the breed in its coun­try of ori­gin. Ev­i­dence for this might be sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in show stan­dards.

An RBST Poul­try Work­ing Group, con­sist­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Poul­try Club of Great Bri­tain, the Rare Poul­try So­ci­ety, the Turkey Club, the Goose Club, the Bri­tish Water­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion and the Do­mes­tic Water­fowl club, has been meet­ing for a num­ber of years to con­sider is­sues re­gard­ing rare breeds of poul­try. A num­ber of new breeds have been added to the ex­ist­ing RBST Watch­list as a re­sult.

The Poul­try Work­ing Group has also been try­ing to ad­dress the mat­ter of en­abling dero­ga­tion from slaugh­ter for threat­ened rare breeds and the need for ad­e­quate record­ing of stock.

A true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the breed

The prob­lem is that FAnGR is not con­vinced that there is any way in which birds can be con­firmed as rep­re­sent­ing the breed with­out a sat­is­fac­tory reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem. In or­der that dero­ga­tion can oc­cur, FAnGR needs to be con­vinced that it is pos­si­ble to en­sure that a given flock is a true rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the breed.

Four lev­els of breed iden­ti­fi­ca­tion are vi­su­alised by the Poul­try Work­ing Group. Firstly, breed clubs. Be­ing a member of a breed club could count as ev­i­dence that the breeder is gen­uine and, if a breeder’s flock was threat­ened with slaugh­ter, the club could con­firm that the stock was gen­uine and sig­nif­i­cant. Since there are few clubs rep­re­sent­ing in­di­vid­ual water­fowl breeds, this would in­clude the Bri­tish Water­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion and the Do­mes­tic Water­fowl Club. It is un­likely that this level of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion would sat­isfy FAnGR.

The next level would be reg­is­trars, who would hold de­tails of breed­ers and could con­firm the cre­den­tials of the flock, but not make them gen­er­ally avail­able.

If more de­tail was re­quired, it might be that in­di­vid­ual breed­ers’ ad­dresses would have to be avail­able. The most de­tailed level would be a reg­is­ter of in­di­vid­ual birds, which is un­likely to be prac­ti­cal, although it is hard to imag­ine ex­emp­tion for birds which are not iden­ti­fi­able in some way.

Far from straight­for­ward

The reg­is­trar scheme is what the Poul­try Work­ing Group has been try­ing to es­tab­lish, but it has not been par­tic­u­larly straight­for­ward. The word from reg­is­trars is that breed­ers do not wish to come for­ward and a num­ber of reg­is­trars have be­come dis­il­lu­sioned. Maybe it will take a com­plete cull of valu­able breed­ing stock for such a sys­tem to be recog­nised as im­por­tant.

It is likely that not all keep­ers and breed­ers of rare breed poul­try ex­hibit them at shows, but it is a good way of com­par­ing birds with oth­ers to check whether they are good rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the breed, to get to know other breed­ers and to be­come known by oth­ers.

The mes­sage is that if you think you have valu­able stock from a rare breed point of view and wish to avoid the risk of slaugh­ter un­der dis­ease con­trol mea­sures, you should at least be­long to a club and en­sure that they have a record of the breeds you keep. The club should have con­tact de­tails of the reg­is­trars of the breed(s). It is in­tended that the con­tact in­for­ma­tion for the in­di­vid­ual breed­ers is only held by the reg­is­trar and is not made avail­able to any other body. It would also be nec­es­sary to have some means of per­ma­nently iden­ti­fy­ing in­di­vid­ual birds, which might be by wing tags, but more usu­ally by closed rings, which are avail­able from the Poul­try Club of Great Bri­tain. Breed­ers should, of course, keep records of ring or tag numbers for their own in­di­vid­ual birds.

There has long been a reg­is­ter of large species of do­mes­tic an­i­mal which is legally bind­ing, but there is no equiv­a­lent for poul­try/water­fowl

The set­ting up of a registry sys­tem would ne­ces­si­tate some means of per­ma­nently iden­ti­fy­ing in­di­vid­ual birds, such as by closed leg rings

The Poul­try Work­ing Group has been try­ing to ad­dress en­abling dero­ga­tion from slaugh­ter for threat­ened rare breeds, such as the Aba­cot Ranger

A legally bind­ing registry sys­tem for poul­try does not cur­rently ex­ist

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