The Livestock Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 150 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Our mission is to protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. Included in our mission are donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
To put our mission into context, in 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that we lose an average of 2 domestic animal breeds each week. In the past fifteen years alone, the FAO has identified the extinction of 300 out of 6,000 breeds worldwide, with another 1,350 in danger of extinction. The Livestock Conservancy is the leading organization in the United States working to stop the extinction of these breeds – ensuring the future of our agricultural food system.
So, why are heritage breeds endangered?
The reason for The Livestock Conservancy’s mission and for the loss of breeds is that that modern agriculture has changed and favors the use of a few specialized breeds. Traditional breeds have fallen out of favor and given way to “improved” breeds. Small, family farms where these breeds once thrived are disappearing at an alarming rate – and with them historic breeds are disappearing as well.
The challenge we face as a nation and as an agricultural community is that heritage breeds are a reflection of genetic diversity. If we lose breeds, we lose genetic diversity. Many will ask, “So what, why does genetic diversity matter?” The simple answer is that our agriculture system is like a stock portfolio. If we invest all of our currency in a limited number of breeds, we are at risk of losing all of our investments. If we embrace diversifying the agricultural portfolio through rare breed conservation, our assets are diversified. We simply need to look to history for evidence. In the 1800’s, the Irish depended on one single variety of potato, the Lumper, for the production of their entire potato crop. When a blight hit that specific variety, the potato crop was lost and nearly a million people died of starvation and other related diseases.
Today, The Livestock Conservancy’s mission is to ensure broad genetic diversity for the future of our agriculture system. Join us in our efforts to conserve genetics, and a piece of our American agricultural history!