Pictures are from Kingsfold Jacobs and used with permission
Most breeds popular today would not survive on their own. The chickens are so bred to produce meat that their legs will break under their own weight if not butchered at precisely the right age. The hogs are walking bacon and ham makers whose pale skin would scorch if it was ever exposed to sunlight. The cows have very demanding nutritional needs and would not function on open pasture. The list goes on and on. We have created a livestock gene pool that needs our constant intervention and assistance in order to survive, then we’ve locked those animals away and treated them horrifically, all in the name of having convenient access to monstrous quantities of meat and milk. This model is immoral and unsustainable, bringing devastating environmental damage.
Enter the rare livestock breeds. They are the antithesis and they may someday be saving humanity. These animals have been bred by small farmers for hundreds of years. They are hardy animals and excellent mothers. We NEED these breeds. This genetic diversity is essential! If agriculture is to be sustainable, it needs livestock incorporated in the model. And they have so much more to offer than meat. Pigs make wonderful living plows and can clear land very effectively. Historically, lard was used as a soap base, as well as a general purpose lubricant. Chickens provide eggs. They also turn and spread compost beautifully. Sheep provide fiber, brush control, and manure for compost. Geese can weed the garden and provide eggs. Historically, they also provided feathers for quill pens, pillows, and mattresses. When we work with multi-purpose heritage animals in a sustainable, respectful manner, our farms can accomplish amazing things, bringing immense environmental improvement.
“Many of America’s once-common farm animals face extinction if we do not take action now. Rare farm animals represent an irreplaceable piece of earth’s biodiversity and offer incredible variety that may be needed for future farms - robust health, mothering instincts, foraging, and the ability to thrive in a changing climate. These farm animals are a vital part of ensuring food security for our planet – now and for the future.” - https://livestockconservancy.org/
The American Livestock Conservancy is a wonderful organization working on the front lines of agriculture to preserve rare livestock breeds in a rapidly changing environment. As we face the drastic effects of climate change, these breeds are more important than ever. These precious breeds can provide fiber for clothes, nutritious sustainable meat and milk, and be our friends and companions in an adverse world.
Most of today’s livestock exists in “big agriculture” farms. Around 90% of America’s dairy cows are Holsteins and they can all trace their lineage to a single bull. Genetic diversity is terrifyingly low. Today’s big farms want animals that produce sell-able meat and milk– lots of it in very little time. They don’t care if the animal can survive on rough island terrain foraging for rugged plants. These animals today spend their lives in a climate controlled barn and are fed a grain-based genetically modified food ration. Most young are taken from their mother very shortly after birth, so mothering qualities are irrelevant.