The newly updated Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) watchlist has added the Large White Pig, known internationally as The Yorkshire Pig, to its highest priority category after the breed suffered a significant decline in numbers in 2021.
The breed, which saw high popularity levels in the 1950s, has seen numbers declined dramatically due to a trend for crossing Large Whites with Landrace pigs instead of pedigree breeding.
The breed’s effective population size has fallen from more than 900 in 2000, to just 125 today. Effective population size marks the genetic diversity within the breed, accounting for the total number of animals in a population and the relative numbers of sires and dams.
RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “Some of our native breeds are in pretty dire straits right now. The pig industry has had an awful year and the situation for native pigs is very concerning, with the decline in Large Whites seven of our 11 native pig breeds are now Priority breeds.
On a more positive note, Mr Price noted that the Watchlist shows that as the changing commercial conditions and as environmental sustainability comes to the fore of agricultural policy, the UK’s native breeds of livestock are increasingly attractive for farming and land management.
“Breeds enjoying an improving situation include the English Goat, Lincoln Longwool sheep, Middle White pigs and Vaynol cattle, we now have the chance to harness these welcome improvements into further success for these breeds,” he added.
The RBST Watchlist is the annual report for these breeds and reflects robust measures of the genetic diversity within each breed as well as the numbers of breeding females registered. The full list can be found at www.rbst.org.uk.