Conserving Heritage Breeds

Conserving Heritage Breeds

Heritage Breeds and the Conservation of Genetic Biodiversity

You’ve probably heard about the world’s many endangered wild animals facing extinction. But did you know that domestic farm animals are also at risk of extinction?

Vanishing Breeds: A Consequence of Industrial Farming

The main reason for this loss of livestock diversity is the dramatic increase in industrial farming. According the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), today’s mass-market, high-volume food production maximizes the use of just “a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in a controlled environment.”

For example, more than 80 percent of dairy cows in the United States are Holsteins; more than 60 percent of U.S. beef cattle are Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds. Around the world, approximately 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct in recent years and more than 1,000 are at risk of becoming extinct. And so, the ALCB works to conserve rare, traditional and vanishing varieties of livestock.

Farming WITH Nature

At the same time, farmers dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices are focusing on breeding traditional “heritage” livestock. Heritage breeds are suited to thrive outdoors in breed-specific climates, they live on pasturelands instead of in buildings and they don’t require the antibiotics often given to livestock living in industrial farming facilities.

Florida’s Own Heritage Livestock

An example of a traditional cattle heritage breed is the “Florida cracker.” One of the oldest breeds in the United States, the cracker’s ancestors came to America along with Spanish colonists in the 1500s. This breed tolerates the hot, humid climate of America’s Southland; it thrives on wild vegetation growing in grasslands and swamps. Fortunately, the state of Florida has stepped forward to conserve this breed as a living piece of the state’s heritage. For more information, contact: www.crackercattle.org

Fun Facts

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