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Did you know there are endangered farm animals? True story! There are over 150 breeds of livestock on the endangered list. How crazy is that?
Endangered farm animals.
This is a huge passion project of mine, so I get a little excited when I talk about it. Just like heirloom vegetables and seed saving, livestock need saving, too. And I plan to do just that. Save heritage livestock.
Sadly, unless you’re looking, you won’t hear much about them. You can hear about and read all day about endangered wild animals, but livestock?
Nope. Not a word. While all of these activists are going on and on about the unfair treatment of industrial ag animals, these breeds are going extinct. Extinct!
Without a single word….
I guess it’s all about priorities.
Due to current industrial farming practices, only a handful of breeds are utilized. Why?
The heritage breeds have been phased out of industrial farming in favor of breeds that have been improved to be better adapted to industrial farming practices. There are only a few select breeds making up the majority of industrial farming practices:
- 14 Species provide over 90% of the human food supply
- 91% of dairy cows are holsteins. Only 4 other breeds are utilized on industrial dairy farms
- 50 Years ago, there were 15 different breeds of pig, only 7 of those remain.
- 5 Breeds of chicken make up almost all of the egg production in the US.
- 3 Breeds of cattle make up 70% of the beef cattle market.
The rest? Except for the select few that know about and try to conserve the breeds, they’re not utilized. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO):
- About 20% of farm animal species are endangered
- In the past 15 years, 190 breeds have become extinct
- An average of one heritage breed a month is lost forever
- There are currently 150 breeds at risk of becoming extinct
Why You Need Heritage Breed Livestock
What is a Heritage Breed?
Amazing is what it is! Seriously, though, these breeds were raised by our ancestors back before industrial ag took over the small, sustainable farms.
They were bred over time to develop traits that made them well-suited to a particular area. Today, they are still incredibly well-suited for small, sustainable farms. They would not fair well in industrial farm conditions. Hence why they aren’t utilized in that setting.
The Awesomeness of Having Heritage Breeds on Your Homestead
- Don’t have a temperature-controlled barn or coop? Totally ok. Heritage breeds were bred to endure the harsh conditions of real life. No thermostat required.
- Don’t have a gazillion acres? Even better. Heritage breeds are much more adaptable to small, sustainable farms than large, industrial ones.
- Want to keep your flock or herd antibiotic free? Or at least use less of them. Great! Heritage breeds were bred to resist disease! Not that they won’t ever require it, but they won’t require antibiotics near as often.
- Don’t want to pour money down the drain on grain rations? Woohoo! These guys are much better adapted to a pasture. They have natural foraging abilities and usually don’t require grain rations.
- You want to feel good and like you’re making a difference? You are! Raising heritage breeds will help maintain a variety of livestock. No more select few that were bred for only industrial farming. It also preserves valuable traits within a species that can be passed on to future breeds.
- Need something that can reproduce without special treatment? They have a natural ability to reproduce with high fertility rates!
- Don’t want to say goodbye too soon? They have a much longer life-span.
How to Get Started With The Awesomeness
Always Have a Plan
Farming requires planning. I don’t care who you are. You can’t just take on living creatures without some sort of plan. You should at least halfway know where you think you’re headed. Ask yourself….
What are my long term goals? Do I want to raise them for food? Do I want breeding stock? Do I want to sell their products?
Ask yourself a lot of questions about what your long term goals are before you decide which species and breeds would be best suited for your goals.
Consider Your Locale and Resources
Can you have livestock or are there regulations or covenants in place that prevent that from happening? Do you have neighbors close by that would be irritated? Do you have enough land to raise your preferred species? Do you have predators that would be a risk to your livestock?
You’d hate to finally get those chickens you always dreamed of only to lose them all to a coyote or a disgruntled neighbor.
Do you have the finances to not only purchase the livestock, but the upkeep of said livestock? Do you have lots of pasture or are you stuck in the woods? Do you have adequate time to raise these animals? Consider all avenues before taking on raising any animal! They’re living breathing creatures too. They deserve the best life we can provide them with!
Once you’ve detailed all the nitty-gritty you should have a better idea of what species will work for you. Perhaps you want to raise a bit of everything (all in good time) or maybe you only have room and time for a few hens. Maybe you want milk and beef, or maybe you just want pets.
It’s all up to you. Once you decide on a species, you can start investigating the different heritage breeds that are available. Check out the list here for all of the endangered breeds currently on the list. There are links available for each breed to find out more about them.
Found a breed or two that you’re interested in? Check out this list of breeders. If you cannot find what you want there, try googling your particular breed. I bet you’ll come up with a bit more information!
Not only are you helping conserve a breed, you will benefit from the biodiversity available to you from these breeds. They are truly a treasure that you will not be sorry you invested your time, research, love, and finances into. Without us, these breeds and all they have to offer will be lost forever!
I love adding heritage breeds to our homestead. They’re always a great addition, and I love keeping the breed alive!