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    Students aim to save sheep breed from extinction

    A new flock of farming students are committed to keeping an historic type of sheep alive thanks to a link up with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

    The group of 120 learners who are based at the college – have just taken delivery of some Derbyshire Gritstone ewes.

    There are currently less than 1200 breeding ewes of this particular species in the UK.

    The pioneering project aims to grow the breed and safeguard its future ahead of any potential outbreak of foot and mouth.

    Farm manager, Tony Buttle, said, “This breed is mainly native to Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire so we are bringing it to the East of the country to protect them as a breed as there are no others over here as far as I’m aware. Currently, around 80pc are based within a 30 to 40-mile radius, so by bringing them to Norfolk and Suffolk will make sure they are protected against the threat of potential diseases and outbreaks. The plan is to breed them and create a small flock of pedigree sheep. We already have some rare breeds with our Norfolk Horn flock, so this influx will be great for our students in the sense they get to work on worthwhile projects with different breeds.

    “They will also get the chance to show them competitively at upcoming shows.”

    Student, Joe Pierce, from Norfolk, said, “It’s an honour to help maintain these rare breeds. The experience will definitely help me in the future.”

    Hannah Cousins from Suffolk, said, “The reason that I chose to take this course was because of the amount of different experiences that I would receive to help support my future ambitions. Naturally, working on this project will give me an insight into working with different breeds of sheep.”

    The sheep have been sponsored by the owner of Norfolk Liquid Feeds, Mike Beckett. He said, “The farm manager approached me to become a sponsor and as a former student, I’m very pleased to have done what I have for the college and if I can do anything in the future, I’d be happy to do so.”