Farmers at Sandwell Valley are working on a special breeding programme to increase a stock of very rare goats on the fields in West Bromwich – and to preserve the breed for ever.

The attractive black-and-white Bagot goats are part of a special conservation effort to increase their numbers, because there are now fewer than 200 registered breeding females left.

The council is helping with the scheme to breed the goats naturally and by artificial insemination methods in a project run by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).

Melissa Underwood-Grattage, working farm manager at Sandwell Valley, said the Bagot goats are owned by the RBST and in the care of Sandwell staff to care for as an approved farm park.

She said: "We have successfully managed to harvest four grade A embryos from four of our nanny goats.

"These have been frozen and put into the RBST’s gene bank and we are pleased with the result because this was the first time that this has ever been tried with primitive goats."

Farmers at Forge Mill Farm in the Valley helped with the work during a month-long fertility programme.

Melissa added: "In theory, by storing frozen embryos we have helped to preserve the breed for ever.

"We have also successfully bred the other four nanny goats and the first of them gave birth on 28 February. The offspring from these goats will form part of our breeding stock here at the country park in years to come.

"The goats which are at Sandwell Park Farm and Forge Mill Farm are particularly popular with our visitors and do an important job in managing some of our land through conservation grazing."

Tom Blunt, the field officer co-ordinating the project, said: "We are extremely happy with how the work has gone and would like to thank the team at Sandwell Park Farm for their part in helping us achieve a successful outcome."

Councillor Richard Marshall, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for leisure, said: "It is pleasing to know that the work our staff have been doing to protect this breed is proving to be so successful.

"I am sure that the visitors to the Valley attractions will be pleased to see these very attractive animals in the fields and to know that they are part of a scheme to save a species."

The Bagot is believed to be Britain’s oldest breed of goat with records of them being around in 1389 at Blithfield, the Staffordshire home of Sir John Bagot.

The exact origin of the Bagot is unknown and there are two leading theories.

One is that they were brought to Britain during the Crusades in the Middle Ages and the other that they originated from native goats in medieval times.