Our objective is to show the importance of the conservation of the sheep breeds “Aranesa” and “Xisqueta” and the white goat “Rasquera” in the extensive exploitation systems, maintaining the equilibrium of the ecosystem of the numerous rural spaces where they live and bringing diversity to these populations, key point for stability and adaptation to different environments. The disappearance of flocks of sheep in the Pyrenees or goats in the Ebro Lands would mean the abandonment of the pastures and the consequent partial degradation of the territory. Our purpose is to contribute to improve their conservation in the populations of origin, initiating the diffusion of the genetic variability using artificial insemination (AI) of cryopreserved doses from the semen bank of these breeds in danger of extinction. In this way, we hope to generate a change in the minds of farmers on the possibility of optimizing their production by establishing a control programme to improve production, thus favouring the maintenance of environmental quality and the economy in these disadvantaged areas.
In recent years, the UAB has worked to characterize, study and guide the standardization of these breeds, as well as to create a semen bank from male donors selected at an early age for their ability to provide genetic variability to these breeds. In order to do this, we have had the collaboration of the different associations of breeders as well as the support of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the National Institute of Agriculture Research (INIA), which has allowed us to establish a programme of conservation and maintenance of these breeds following the recommendations of the FAO. Currently, the semen bank of the goat breed “Blanca de Rasquera” consists of 2680 individual doses from 9 different individuals, the “Aranese” sheep breed has a total of 3637 doses from 8 individuals, while “Xisqueta” is composed of 1630 doses from 6 males. Therefore, we have enough genetic material to start a good breeding campaign in the herds of origin, providing this much-desired genetic variability, reducing the high consanguinity observed in small populations, trying to improve rates in the reproductive sphere and favouring the possibility of applying a plan to improve these breeds. Such a plan would encourage producers to continue conserving them in extensive exploitation systems.
The goal is to help restore, preserve and promote biodiversity in areas with natural and specific limitations, strengthen these agrarian systems of high natural value, as well as take care of their landscapes and prevent fires. In short, we hope to show breeders that a new focus on their professional activity would help preserving the breeds and the environment, but it would also help improve their private lives. The main problem, from the economic and social point of view, is the scarce continuity of livestock due to the low guaranteed generational change of producers in these areas, which does not exceed 20%.