The future of the UK’s iconic native pig breeds is becoming 'increasingly insecure' in the wake of the wider pig industry crisis, campaigners have warned.
The British Landrace pig breed has seen a dramatic decline with just 23 dams producing pedigree progeny in 2022, down from 43 in 2021.
This compares with 495 dams registered in 2006, according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).
The low numbers are in stark contrast to the 1970s, 80s and 90s when the breed expanded rapidly to become one of the UK's most popular for commercial pigs.
The RBST's watchlist, an annual situation report for breeds, also shows a major fall in British Saddleback pig registration numbers.
The Gloucestershire Old Spot pig now has the lowest number of breeders registering progeny since 2000, while the Oxford Sandy & Black pig has seen the number of dams producing pedigree progeny fall 32% since 2020.
RBST chief executive, Christopher Price said the crisis in the pig industry over the past two years was driving "a very worrying and worsening situation" for rare native breeds.
"Fewer people are keeping these breeds now, and the number of new piglet births is falling too," he explained.
"Each of these breeds has unique characteristics, they are part of the UK’s heritage but they also have an important role in food production today and the resilience of our pig industry into the future."
Mr Price said the government must consider the 'urgent plight' of native breeds as it reviewed the pork supply chain.
He warned that the British Landrace was in a particularly worrying situation: "It is a fantastic breed for really high quality bacon and pork production, very easy to manage and excellent for improving other breeds of pig," he said.
The RBST Watchlist highlights a number of other breeds across the UK’s native livestock and equine breeds which are in growing need of support.
The Llanwenog sheep has seen a significant drop in registered births for the 2nd consecutive year. The breed is considered At Risk.
And the Gloucester cattle breed has seen another drop in the number of breeders and registered births.
The RBST and the Gloucester Cattle Society have begun a programme of work aiming to revive the breed’s fortunes.