RARE and native breeds could help British farmers to keep their costs down during post-Brexit the Rare Breed Survival Trust Society (RBST) has said.

Founder of Rare Breeds Tynedale Rebecca Wilson, whose father Joe Henson was a founding member of the RBST in 1973, has inherited her father’s love for rare breeds.

Keeping a flock of fifty breeding ewes, specialising in five rare breeds at West Woodfoot Farm near Slaley, Rebecca flies the flag for rare breeds whenever she can.

The breeds she keeps are Teeswaters, Herdwicks, Cheviots, Kerry Hills and Llanwenogs.

“Part of what makes native sheep so special is that they offer a less intensive way of farming,” Rebecca said. “Because they are suited to fit our landscapes and our climate. This helps to cut out the cost of hard feed and housing and silage, especially through the winter months.”

“These breeds are becoming increasingly popular amongst British farmers for the very reason that they are easy to maintain in most ways.”

Teeswaters, a breed which derives originally from the Tees Valley in Durham, are a particularly hardy breeds, said Rebecca, with their Northern origins rendering them capable of withstanding most weathers.

“Llanwenogs are also very self-sufficient hill breed,” she said. “And we keep Masham ewes, a cross between a Teeswater and often a Dalebred or a Swaledale, which are hugely maternal sheep along with being hardy, making them a ideal choice for many farmers.”

Three years ago, Rebecca helped to launch a new class at the Northumberland County Show, the British Rare Breed Sheep class, which Tynedale Rare Breeds has sponsored every year.

“My father knew that British farming would be missing so much if it were to loose these rare and native breeds,” Rebecca said. “He saw how reliant farmers would be on them in the future.

“Thank goodness we saved them, and charities such as the Rare Breed Survival Trust Society continue to work tirelessly to continue to keep these breeds going strong.”

This year’s Watchlist showed native livestock breeds are proving resilient in the face of economic challenges, with cattle in particular being recognised for their versatility over the last five years and sheep breeds remaining stable or increasing.