A nonprofit founded in 1977, The Livestock Conservancy is the leading organization in the United States working to protect over 150 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.