The Livestock Conservancy
We are proud to support the Livesock Conservancy on their mission to protect livestock and poultry from extinction. Below, read about their “about us” section from their website. To learn more about their efforts, visit their website here.
“A nonprofit founded in 1977, The Livestock Conservancy is the leading organization in the United States working to protect nearly 200 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. The Livestock Conservancy works with farmers, chefs, historians, consumers, and others around the nation to protect genetic diversity in agriculture. Just like there are heirloom seeds that need saving, the Conservancy works to protect heritage breeds – for the security of our agricultural system.
Now, you may be scratching your head and thinking, “but I see cows and chickens all the time, how can they be endangered?” Just like there are endangered species such as pandas, tigers, and elephants, there are also endangered livestock and poultry BREEDS. Specifically, 21% of the world’s 8,000 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. It is these breeds that The Livestock Conservancy works to protect.
So, how do we work to conserve heritage breeds? The Livestock Conservancy uses research, education, outreach, marketing and promotion, and genetic rescues to ensure that these historic breeds are around for future generations. In addition to our in-the-field and research efforts, The Livestock Conservancy works directly with farmers to bridge the gap between conservation theory and on-farm practice. We provide educational materials, information, resources, training, and consultation to equip farmers with the tools necessary to successfully raise and market rare breeds of livestock and poultry. Heritage breed conservation may seem like a fancy term, but in reality it’s all about small farmers making smart choices and raising the right breeds in the right systems – to help conserve these animals for the future.
Today, The Livestock Conservancy’s work is more critical than ever and helps to:
-protect our food systems by keeping alternative livestock and poultry genetic resources secure;
-ensure the availability of broad genetic diversity for the continued evolution of agriculture;
-conserve valuable genetic traits such as disease resistance, survival, self-sufficiency, fertility, longevity, foraging ability, maternal instincts;
-preserve our heritage, history, and culture;
-maintain breeds of animals that are well-suited for sustainable, grass-based and organic systems; and
-give small family farms raising heritage breeds a competitive edge.”
Glynwood – Cultivating a Vibrant Hudson Valley
We are proud to support the mission and programs run by Glynwood. Below, is their mission statement to support the Hudson Valley. To learn more about their efforts, visit their website here.
“Glynwood’s mission is to ensure that farming thrives in the Hudson Valley. We farm, train farmers, promote regional food and collaborate to realize our vision.
We work to advance regenerative agriculture that benefits the natural environment, energizes local economies, enhances human health and strengthens rural communities.
Our vision is a Hudson Valley defined by food: where farmers prosper, food entrepreneurs succeed, residents are nourished and visitors are inspired.”
Have you ever heard of Herdwyck Sheep? These beautiful creatures have been traditionally bred and raised in the fells and pastures of the Lake District in Cumbria, England. Now they are being ‘humanely and holistically raised’ by only one farm in the United States, the Helder-Herdwyck Farm in the Helderberg Mountains in upstate New York.
At this point in the U,S., the highest percentage of Herdwick genetics is at 75%. But, they are hoping for USDA to open the doors this fall and allow us to import new Herdwick genetics to continue the breeding program at Helder-Herdwyck Farm. This is all part of diversifying the geographic location of the Herdwick breed.
The susceptibility of the breed as a whole was realized during the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The epidemic was tragic, devastating effects throughout the area. With only about 100,000 Herdwick sheep at the time of the outbreak, about 25,000 Herdwick sheep alone were lost. For comparison, there were an estimated 75 million Romney sheep in New Zealand in 2000.
It was realized that the Herdwick breed needed to be distributed geographically, or risk extinction should another disease strike. Recent studies have actually shown the Herdwick to be highly disease resistant, and genetically distinct from all other breeds of sheep. Part of the reason England refers to the Herdwick as the original slow grown food is that ewes do not breed until their second year, and tend to have one lamb per year. The breed became threatened as more prolific breeds were desired for commercial production (montadale ewes readily breed at 6 months of age). However, the flavor is unique, favored by Queen Elizabeth. Flavor of the English Herdwick will differ from ours, due to the difference in forage.
Most importantly to us, here on our holistically managed sustainable farm, the Herdwick’s ability to convert very little forage into body mass meets our sustainable goals. Additionally, the breed is smaller in stature than commercial breeds. This quality makes them safer and easier to handle, and, does not impact the environment in the ways heavier breeds do. We feel this rare breed is highly important to U.S. agriculture because of their unique abilities to thrive in sparse vegetation and difficult terrain. Given the extent to which the U.S. is being developed, these sheep will thrive in the areas left, where commercial breeds will be hard stretched to perform accordingly.
Because the Herdwick is rare, and the U.S. breeding program has been closed to new genetics for about 5 years, each of our animals is very important. We are engaging in a new breeding line this year to ensure the genetics start out as purely 50% Herdwick and 50% of a base breed we are determining to be as close to Herdwick type as possible. The ewes used by the original breeder in the U.S. were of varying breeding.
That all said there are also wonderful things the sheep have done to the old farm fields yet. Though it is better seen for yourself to believe. But they have nearly eradicated an invasive species in their main pasturing area, giving new life to native grasses and plants which had been choked by the invasives. The compacted soil is now soft like a carpet and the grasses team with bugs, butterflies and birds. There has been no plowing, no large scale seeding (if the dirt is scuffed where they gathered at the water trough, they tossed some clover seeds there when moving them), and absolutely no herbicides or pesticides have been used. Simply by rotating the animals in tandem – sheep, then hens and broilers, and then 60 days of rest, the farmers have lush pasture that is turning emerald green with natural nutrients.
And after all that, the wool is also completely unique, and known as “the smiling sheep”, over all the Herdwick has a delightful personality.