Agriculture and rural development

AGRI GEN RES 040: Heritage Sheep

AGRI GEN RES 040: Heritage Sheep

Genetic resources
AGRI GEN RES 040: Heritage Sheep

Final results

The Heritage Sheep action studied Heritage Sheep Breeds across five Member States, contributed to a European genebank and how best to develop markets as a means of protecting and conserving the numbers and value of regional sheep breeds. More information regarding the results can be found in the executice summary.


The objectives of the action are:

  • To conserve the genetic resources of Heritage Sheep Breeds across the European Community for the diversification of production in livestock agriculture and the sustainability of medium to low-input farming systems.
  • To improve quality of the environment and develop new uses and markets for products derived from regional breeds geographically concentrated and traditionally farmed by local communities. Through a network of specialists in sheep conservation, a consortium of 6 partners across Europe have come together to formulate these objectives and undertake the proposed actions.

Actions and means involved

Actions include:

  • Characterisation and evaluation of Heritage Sheep Breeds (HSBs), building on information gained from national inventories, as well as via the European Regional Focal Point (ERFP) scoping study: the information will be used as a basis to assess threats facing HSB genetic resources, both in general and those specific to each breed and Member State leading to standardised and comparable criteria to identify national priorities for action for sustainable conservation and utilisation of HSBs;
  • Development of new strategies for the in situ conservation of HSBs, identifying their products, new uses and markets for the breeds and products to help ensure their enhanced profitability and economic sustainability in the face of current and future threats to their conservation;
  • Development of protocols and frameworks for appropriate ex situ conservation of HSB germplasm and tissue samples to enable interlinked, pan-European collections and their availability for future molecular evaluation: two breeds per partner country will be prioritised for actual collection and storage of semen during the targeted action;
  • Establishment of a web based permanent, widely accessible database and inventory network of HSB genetic resources to build in traditional regional experience and knowledge and integrate this new information with existing data available through present databases, European Association for Animal Production (EAAP) database, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (FAO DAD-IS) and through the European Farm Animal Biodiversity Information System (EFABIS), Global and National Action Plans concerning Farm Animal Genetic Resources.

The means to achieve these actions are through the appointment of dedicated staff to work with established national specialists and regional / local groups. This enables the actions to add substantial value through knowledge-spread and improved methodologies and exchange of experience and knowledge between Member States, to agri-environmental schemes in existence at national and regional levels across Europe.

Relevance to the objectives

Heritage Sheep Breeds offer the real potential of a sustainable future for medium to low input, traditional farming systems to support local communities throughout Europe. To realise this potential, it is essential to conserve their genetic resources, minimise threats to their existence and develop new profitable uses and markets for their products. Therefore, the actions are all directly relevant to the objectives of GENRES, in that new information on Heritage Sheep Breeds ware gained and evaluated, new strategies and guidelines are developed for in situ / on-farm and ex situ conservation of HSB genetic resources, the results are disseminated and the continued coordination of the network promotes the conservation and management of HSB genetic resources, both in situ / on-farm and ex situ.


Final results (12/2009)


Final policy paper (12/2009)


Organisations implementing the co-funded action


Coordinator's website