Scroll through the pages above or download the PDF below to see some of the incredible work we've been able to accomplish, which has only been made possible through the generosity of our members, breeders, donors, sponsors, and followers like you.
Thank you for your support.
For over 40 years The Livestock Conservancy has worked to protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. Although all rare breeds face challenges, it has become apparent that the recent market downturn has particularly impacted our equine breeds. Many horse and donkey breeds face the threat of extinction more so today than at any other time in history. Thanks to the grant from the USA Equestrian Trust, the effort to stabilize equine breed decline and secure the remaining diversity began in 2017. Read More...
Since its founding, The Livestock Conservancy has never lost a breed ranked on its Conservation Priority List to extinction!
Discover, Secure, Sustain: Real-Life Success Stories
The Livestock Conservancy's conservation actions are shaped by the “Discover, Secure, Sustain” paradigm. Below are some of the success stories from the Conservancy's archives. These examples illustrate the application of “Discover, Secure, Sustain” in projects and actions.
Secure & Sustain: staff member Jeannette Beranger and former staffer Don Schrider developed a master breeder program for Buckeye chickens that has set the gold standard for expansion and selection of rare chicken breeds.
Secure & Sustain: In 1997 the Conservancy took a census of Heritage Turkeys. There were only 1,335 breeding birds in the whole United States. Between 1997 and 2002, the organization began to get the word out. A specialty newsletter was started and a project with Virginia Tech was initiated to compare the immune systems of Heritage Turkeys and industrial strains. With the help of marketing and education, by 2003, the breeding population had more than doubled, numbering 4,275. The Livestock Conservancy initiated an educational program on how to care for Heritage Turkeys, and how to select quality breeding stock. By 2007, the population exceeded 10,000 breeder birds.
Discover & Secure: One of the Conservancy's first rescues occurred in December 1987, when it learned that a unique population of feral sheep on Santa Cruz Island (off the coast of southern California) faced imminent eradication. Thanks largely to Phil Hedrick, Marion Stanley, and Dirk Van Vuren; a viable population was brought off the island.
Sustain: The Livestock Conservancy has defined the term Heritage for chickens, turkeys, cattle, and swine, helping to set standards for product marketing and helping to generate a niche market for these breeds.
Discover & Secure: The Marsh Tacky project was the culmination of a successful 4 year project to describe, document, and conserve an endangered horse breed previously thought to be extinct. The breed is from the lowlands of South Carolina and is of Spanish descent.
Secure: Former Executive Director Don Bixby initiated a gene bank to store genetic material in case of a crisis and to give breeders access to stored semen.
Secure & Sustain: During the 1980s, hog prices plummeted and many breeders sent their herds to market. In 1999, there were only 42 Red Wattle hogs and 4 breeders. In 2000, The Livestock Conservancy was asked to re-initiate a registry for the Red Wattle hog breeders. Only 3 hogs were registered the first year. The Conservancy helped facilitate communication between breeders. By June 2001, the population had increased to 90 and added 3 breeders and an association had been formed. In 2012 300 Red Wattle hogs were registered and the Red Wattle Hog Association have taken over the management of the registry. Red Wattle hogs were moved from Critical to Threatened on the 2014 Conservation Priority List.
The Livestock Conservancy works on a variety of projects to support its mission of genetic conservation of heritage breeds. Here is a snapshot of a few of our current projects!
|Java Chicken Recovery Project: Through careful selection and breeding, The Livestock Conservancy is working with a pilot group of breeders to bring back the production characteristics of the Java chicken. In its first year alone, the project increased the number of Java chickens in the United States by 10%, but more quality breeding stock is needed. For the coming year, the project will be expanded and new breeders and producers will be added. The Livestock Conservancy is also working with breeders and producers to develop economic models for successfully raising and marketing heritage chicken breeds which will benefit all farmers raising heritage chickens.|
Classroom Heritage Chicken Hatching Project: This past spring, (2013) The Livestock Conservancy was approached by Ginger Cunningham of our local Cooperative Extension to help with an embryology program was conducted by a 4-H School Enrichment Project. Previously the program acquired eggs from a local commercial hatchery but our good friends at Extension believed that perhaps it would be more interesting for the students and teachers if they used Heritage breed eggs. That’s when Ginger came to the Conservancy.
|10-Year Livestock Census: The goal of this project is to complete a ten-year population census update for heritage (and commercial) livestock breeds. The Livestock Conservancy was the first organization to conduct a national census of heritage breeds; this has been an invaluable tool in sustaining a science-based focus for our conservation work. The current census will assess both endangered and non-endangered breeds to produce an overall picture of the diversity of livestock breeds in the United States. The resulting census data from this project will drive national and international conservation objectives.|
|Master Breeder Program: This program is based on the fundamental premise that the existence and continuity of “old-time” (Master) breeders’ knowledge is critical to conservation. Master Breeders are historians who help bridge production knowledge from this generation to the next. They are a critical resource for conservation. This project includes in-the-field interviews with recognized Master Breeders, documentation and teaching of their methods, and publication of the findings.|
|Saving Endangered Hog Breeds Project: The Livestock Conservancy is working with a number of partners and universities to make Heritage Pork production an economically-viable enterprise for small and mid-scale farmers, to increase endangered breed swine populations so that they are numerically and genetically secure, and to develop models for pastured, heritage swine production that can be applied nationally. This three-year project is in its first year.||
|Heritage Breed Outreach Initiative: Many people do not realize that many of America’s historic breeds are threatened with extinction, and The Livestock Conservancy is leading the quest to educate the public and change perceptions and understandings of agriculture. The Heritage Breed Outreach Initiative brings The Livestock Conservancy's expertise and services to those people around the country who are eager to learn more about raising and conserving heritage breeds.|
|Discovery Project: According to The Livestock Conservancy's Technical Advisor, world-renowned conservationist and professor Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, the window for rediscovering “lost” breeds and strains is closing. Many breeds were parked on islands or thrived in harsh environments – and they were essentially forgotten about or only known to a few people. With the loss of old-time breeders and the continuing threat of urban sprawl, these breeds and their histories may disappear forever. The Livestock Conservancy is working with its partners to “re-discover” lost breeds and investigate rumored unique or isolated populations.|
Ongoing: In addition to these projects, The Livestock Conservancy staff works tirelessly to support conservation in a variety of other ways: through publications, marketing materials, presentations, answering emails and phone questions, workshops, field-work, farm visits, flock evaluations, and much more – The Livestock Conservancy keeps conservation at the forefront of its mission!
Are you interested in in helping with one of these projects or providing funding to expand a project? Please contact us!
With over 35 years in the conservation business, the Livestock Conservancy has done a lot of work! Here is a small glimpse of some of our past projects.
|Heritage Turkey Recovery Project: In 1997 The Livestock Conservancy took a census of Heritage Turkeys and found that there were only 1,335 breeding birds in the whole United States. Between 1997 and 2002, the Conservancy began to get the word out. A specialty newsletter (“The Snood News”) was begun, and a project with Virginia Tech was initiated to compare the immune systems of Heritage Turkeys and industrial strains. Through promotion and marketing, the popularity of Heritage Turkeys grew. By 2003, the breeding population had more than doubled, numbering 4,275. The Heritage Turkey market continued to gain momentum, and more people wanted to raise the birds. As a result, the Livestock Conservancy initiated an educational program on how to care for Heritage Turkeys, and how to select quality breeding stock. By 2007, the population exceeded 10,000 breeder birds. The work is not done, but the 17 naturally mating varieties no longer teeter on the brink of extinction.||
|Marsh Tacky Discovery and Documentation: The Marsh Tacky project was the culmination of a successful 4 year project to describe, document, and conserve an endangered horse breed previously thought to be extinct. The breed is from the lowlands of South Carolina and is of Spanish descent. The project included the initial discovery of the breed, documentation of the breed, networking with breeders throughout the Southeast, and re-establishing breeding and promotional plans to support the breed. Today, the breed is growing in popularity and has become the official South Carolina State Heritage Horse.||
|Buckeye Recovery Project: The Livestock Conservancy developed a production and selection program for chickens which has set the gold-standard for expansion and selection of rare chicken breeds. The project included hatching chicks, working with breeders to selectively breed chicks, and continuing selection over multiple years to increase productivity traits. As a result of this project, the Buckeye gained popularity and moved from the Critical to the Threatened category on the Conservation Priority List..|
|Wilbur-Cruce Rescue: A ranch strain of Colonial Spanish horse known as the Wilbur Cruce was rescued before the land was turned to a land conservation program. Dr. Phil Sponenberg, the Livestock Conservancy technical advisor, developed a conservation plan, and placed small breeding groups with breed stewards.|
|Renewing America’s Food Traditions Project: The Livestock Conservancy served as a partner on a collaborative project to document and restore many of America’s heirloom foods (seeds and breeds). From tastings, to documentation of cultural traditions with breeds, this project explored a variety of ways heritage breeds have influenced food tradition and culture.|
|Heritage Definitions Project: The term Heritage has been loosely used by farmers, consumers, marketers, and the public to describe traditional or historic breeds. To better codify this term for the marketplace, the Livestock Conservancy has taken steps to define Heritage for all species. Currently, the Livestock Conservancy has defined Heritage for turkeys, chickens, and cattle. Additional Heritage definitions are being developed||
Feel free to contact us to learn more about our projects, and how you might get involved!
Success Stories (.pdf,15.5MB)
|2016 Press Release||2017 Press Release||2018 Press Release|
International Heritage Breeds Week aims to raise global awareness about endangered heritage breeds of livestock and poultry. Many of our traditional livestock breeds have been replaced with more "improved" breeds in modern animal agriculture, at the expense of a massive loss in genetic diversity. Worldwide, about one domesticated livestock breed every month is lost to extinction.
"To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction."
International Heritage Breeds Week will be held during the third full week of May each year, with Interational Heritage Breeds Day being held the ending Saturday of that week.
What are Heritage Breeds?
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to local environments and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture. Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites. Other names sometimes used interchangeably with 'Heritage' include: Native, Minor, Rare, Endangered, and others.
The first annual Heritage Breeds Week was held in May, 2015 across the United States to raise awareness about endangered heritage breeds of livestock and poultry in America. A national campaign was launched by The Livestock Conservancy promoting the weeklong event and heritage breed farmers, enthusiasts, and the public were encouraged to spread the word throughout their networks. The week of awareness culminated on with National Heritage Breeds Day where many farms and ranches held local events such as farm tours, workshops, or lectures to raise awareness in their communities.
The event was so successful that The Livestock Conservancy now partners with a consortium of livestock conservation organizations from around the world to host International Heritage Breeds Week each year. The fifth annual International Heritage Breeds Week will be held 19-25 May, 2019.
International Heritage Breeds Week is an opportunity for livestock conservation organization members, fans, and sponsors to advocate for conservation of heritage breeds in agriculture. It's a time to share with local, state, national, and international audiences what livestock conservation is all about and the impact it has on heritage breeds and agriculture every day. Help us promote International Heritage Breeds Week and Day by word-of-mouth, through social media, and to your local press.
Host a classroom field trip to a local heritage breed farm or ranch or to a historical farm with heritage breeds in your area. Or, bring the breeds to the classroom! This provides a great opportunity for children to learn about the importance of genetic diversity and conserving heritage breeds.
Invite one or more state legislators to visit local farms and ranches or set up a visit to their state office. Leave them with livestock conservation materials and samples of heritage breed products.
Visit a local nursing home and consider taking heritage breed animals with you. Many older folks once raised heritage breeds and will appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with the animals.
Local Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful place to emphasize the importance of heritage breeds. Arrange to have music, samples, fun games for kids and make a day of it.
Heritage Breed Petting Zoo
Organize a petting zoo where children and their parents can see heritage breed animals and learn more about them. Provide your own animals, or work with local farmers and ranchers to provide the animals.
Host a Celebrity
Invite a local celebrity who is familiar with heritage breeds, raises them; or has a friend or family member who has been involved with them and request sponsorship of International Heritage Breeds Week. Hold an event and ask the celebrity to speak about a personal experience involving heritage breeds.
Approach your local public or school libraries about organizing an exhibit during International Heritage Breeds Week. You might offer to arrange for a speaker or a lecture series about agriculture. Books about rural communities, animals, farms, etc., could be part of a special International Heritage Breeds Week section that encourages children to learn more about agriculture and how it affects their lives. The Livestock Conservancy’s book An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is a wonderful addition to any library.
International Heritage Breeds Day Breakfast
Host a Heritage Breeds breakfast for local government and business leaders. Identify a keynote speaker to talk about heritage breeds and plan your menu around locally grown and raised agricultural products.
Organize a Fundraiser
Host a fundraiser, such as a walk-a-thon, and donate money to national conservation organizations like The Livestock Conservancy and/or a breed’s registry, club, or association. Emphasize the importance of heritage breeds in the nation's agricultural system; pay tribute to a local farmer; or recognize all farmers who raise heritage breeds year-round.
Sponsor a community-wide event, such as a coloring or poem-writing contest for students. The children could acknowledge their breed or species. The drawings or poems could be displayed in local schools, hospitals, or nursing homes.
Showcase an exhibit at your local mall, shopping center, or public area to introduce the public to heritage breeds. Include examples of heritage breed products like wool, cheese, or eggs, as well as information on how these products are produced. Contact other local heritage breed producers to collaborate and display items and information. Consider conducting outreach and education in urban and underserved areas.
Encourage elementary schools to designate a day during National Heritage Breeds Week to distribute quizzes and puzzles with school lunches. This can also serve as an opportunity to explain the connection between farms and foods on the table. Contact your state’s School Food Service Association for guidance. Or, with cooperation of the school, donate items (milk, ice cream, meat, cheese, etc.).
Shows and Fairs
Promote a positive image of heritage breed conservation by sponsoring a local show or fair. Consider including exhibits, food stands, live animals or entertainment.
Rare Breeds Trust of Australia
Actas Iberoamericanas en Conservación Animal
Ganado Criollo Tarahumara
Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand
Rare Breeds Survival Trust
Save the date for next year's Heritage Livestock Conference: All Things Sheep
October 24-27, 2019 in Santa Rosa, California!
The 2018 Heritage Livestock Conference was held just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana the second weekend in November.
Clinics and talks included:
"The Heritage Livestock Conference is great for those interested in conserving and promoting endangered breeds of livestock and poultry who wish to learn more about husbandry, conservation breeding, marketing, value-added products, and recent research of rare breeds. The conference allows attendees to network with others and participate in training to become future breed stewards, promoters, and ambassadors." -- R. Walker
Just over ten years ago, the initial withdrawal of military forces from Iraq began. Over the next several years, thousands of our military veterans returned home and began the process of re-acclimation to civilian life. During this time, more and more veterans called The Livestock Conservancy to ask about raising Heritage breed livestock. For many, the daily task of caring for animals and the greater mission of rare breed conservation aligns with the mission-focused military training they received. At the same time, many find the duty of raising livestock therapeutic.
Although 45% of military veterans come from rural areas (compared to just 15% of the overall population), many of those who contacted the Conservancy indicated a desire for training to raise Heritage breed animals. Some had experience only with crops while others wanted to raise different livestock than they had before. Some had no farming experience at all. To address their need, The Livestock Conservancy held its first training workshop for veterans, From Service to Stewardship, in 2012.
The impact of that first workshop on veterans and Master Breeders was so powerful, a commitment was made to host future workshops to train veterans to raise Heritage breeds. Five years later, From Service to Stewardship now connects former participants with established farms with long-time Master Breeders to train their fellow veterans. Training opportunities like From Service to Stewardship allow the Conservancy to fulfill its mission of protecting rare breeds from extinction while serving important communities like our veterans.
The fourth Service to Stewardship farming workshop was held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA April 7-8, 2017.
Read about the workshop in USDA's Rural Cooperatives magazine.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Conservancy's podcast. At this time, funding has not been secured for additional seasons, but it is possible it may return in the future. If you have any questions, please contact The Livestock Conservancy at info@LivestockConservancy.org.
Each episode showcases historic animals, their breeders, and people working to save them from extinction.
1. What is The Livestock Conservancy's Mission?
"To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction"
2. How many breeds do you work with?
Currently, The Livestock Conservancy works to protect over 150 individual breeds from 11 different species. See our Conservation Priority List here.
3. Do you sell animals?
4. Where is the Conservancy located?
Our national headquarters is located in Pittsboro, North Carolina, but we have members in all 50 states and over 20 different countries. Our mailing address is PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC, 27312.
5. How much is membership?
Basic membership is $45 and online student memberships are $25. To see more information on membership and become a member, click here.
6. Can I meet with you in person?
Yes! Feel free to drop by our headquarters at 33 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro, NC, 27312, M-F 9am-5pm Eastern Standard Time or catch us on the road at one of the many events we attend throughout the year. See the event calendar here.
7. How do I contact you?
You can reach us by sending an online message, or giving us a call at (919) 542-5704 M-F 9am-5pm Eastern Standard Time.
8. How can I make a donation or pay my dues?
Donations can be made online here, membership can be renewed online here, or you can send cash or checks to The Livestock Conservancy, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312 or call with a credit card (VISA, MC, AmEx, or Discover) at (919) 542-5704.
9. Are you a charity / are my donations tax-deductible?
Yes. The Livestock Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law. ID# 03 0270 281 See our Top-Rated Charity status here.
10. What is a Heritage breed?
The Livestock Conservancy developed the term "Heritage breed" to in order to help breeders of historic and endangered breeds of livestock market their animals. For more information on how we developed this term and to see the official Heritage breed definitions, click here.
11. Why isn't my breed listed?
The mission of The Livestock Conservancy revolves around genetic conservation of endangered breeds in the United States. Although some breeds may be rare, they don't always fit the criteria for our Conservation Priority List. To see the criteria for inclusion on the list, click here.
12. Do I have to own/breed animals to be a member?
Nope! In fact, over half of Livestock Conservancy members don't own animals, but still support our cause through their membership. We'd love to have you as a member.
13. Are there grants for people who want to raise heritage breeds?
Although there aren't usually grants specifically tailored to raising heritage breeds, there are some financial resources that may benefit people raising them. When we hear of these, we list them on our Financial Resources page here. If you know of additional resources we can share, please contact us to let us know and we'll add them to our list. Another good place to check is with your local Cooperative Extension office. They may know of local or state resources we are not aware of.