Calls mount for first livestock genetic bank

Rare Breeds Trust of Australia leads call for livestock gene bank

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Currently genetic resources in Australia are preserved either directly by primary producers, indirectly at artificial insemination centres or by breed societies and researchers in a range of areas. Photo: File

Currently genetic resources in Australia are preserved either directly by primary producers, indirectly at artificial insemination centres or by breed societies and researchers in a range of areas. Photo: File

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So far Belmont Red cattle semen and Timor Pony semen has been stored in two centres.

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The Rare Breeds Trust of Australia is leading the call for the federal government to establish the country's first livestock gene bank to help preserve breeds before they are lost.

Countries around the world have spent millions of dollars establishing a storage system for livestock genetics that were either native to the country or at risk of extinction.

But Australia has never followed suit.

A roundtable discussion was held last year featuring Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and left the government exploring whether there is a need for the service.

A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment spokesman said the roundtable concluded there was merit in the concept but more work was required to develop an ideal model for Australia.

"This includes better consideration of the needs for different livestock sectors and potential costs," they said.

"The roundtable considered how a national livestock gene bank could be of benefit to Australia's livestock industries, including options to enhance disaster recovery, and improve adaptability and resilience by preserving wider genetic diversity for future use and research.

"A range of matters would need to be considered, including technical and governance issues around gene bank objectives, financing, inventory, collection, storage, and release of livestock genetic material."

Currently genetic resources for livestock in Australia are preserved either directly by primary producers, indirectly at artificial insemination centres or by breed societies and researchers in a range of areas.

In the meantime volunteers from the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia have taken it upon themselves to begin their own gene bank.

So far Belmont Red cattle semen and Timor Pony semen has been stored in two centres.

Given the cost of storage the group will host a fundraising auction on AuctionsPlus from May 16-22 with all funds aiding the semen bank.

Donations of semen from rare breed animals are also being accepted.

"Because of Australia's unique quarantine situations, breeds that are no longer available elsewhere...once they are gone, they are gone forever," Rare Breeds Trust of Australia managing director Anne Sim said.

One of the auction items.

One of the auction items.

"A gene-bank it is a matter of urgency, to collect from the most rare breeds of all.

"Cleveland Bay horses may well be extinct soon. Carpet wool sheep - the Drysdale, Tukidale and Elliotdale are staring at extinction.

"Most of our rare breeds are at crisis point - in fact we have totally lost several breeds in Australia and cannot replace them due to quarantine restrictions, for example pig breeds.

"We have Wessex Saddleback pigs which have been lost in their country of origin. These are also rare globally. This gene-bank may ensure their survival."

The auction features a number of different items including an original painting of a Dorset Horn head by the late Dr John Mills from Canada, two night stays at Glenlyon Dam Holiday Cottage and Jimmy's Cottage at the Highfields Pioneer Village, a leather tote bag from Kent Saddlery at Stanthorpe, family passes to the Darling Downs Zoo and prints of rare breeds donated by Barbara Buckland-Gibbings.

For more information about the online auction or to offer donations to the livestock genetic bank email rarebreedstrustau@gmail.com

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