2022 Microgrant recipients collage

The Livestock Conservancy is excited to award more than $20,000 to rare breed farmers, ranchers, shepherds, and breed organizations across the country. Now in its fifth year, the competitive Microgrants Program has awarded more than $76,000 to our most important conservation partners – the people doing the hard work day after day to steward these genetic treasures. Three-quarters of the world’s food supply draws on just 12 crops and 5 livestock species. However, heritage breeders like the ones below are working to restore biodiversity and to educate their communities about the importance of biodiversity for the security of tomorrow’s food systems and fiber sources.

“Premier 1 Supplies and its customers have long valued raising livestock and poultry,” said Ben Rothe, Chief Executive Officer at Premier 1 Supplies and Microgrant donor. “That’s why we’ve partnered with The Livestock Conservancy to encourage and help future farmers conserve breeds and promote biodiversity on our farms.”

The Microgrants program provides up to $2,000 for heritage breed conservation projects at the National, Youth, and Breed Association levels. New this year is support from KageWerks, Inc.  for a project focused on one of the 16 endangered rabbit breeds on the Conservation Priority List.

“I have a life-long passion for rabbits,” said Kevin Whaley, founder of KageWerks, Inc. He raises several heritage breeds in California, including Belgian Hares and Giant Chinchillas. Whaley created a modern solid-floor cage design for rabbit’s special needs and is excited to support heritage breeders through The Livestock Conservancy’s first rabbit-focused Microgrant.

 Louis Eubanks, Bob Gjerdingen, Drs. Pam Hand and Will Hueston, Pat Lusted, and Standlee Premium Western Forage are additional 2022 donors who support microgrants for heritage livestock and poultry conservation.

“Small financial awards can make a big difference for heritage breeders,” said Dr. Alison Martin, Livestock Conservancy Executive Director. “These strategic investments were selected by a panel of more than 50 judges as excellent examples of livestock conservation in action.”

While it takes a long time to move a breed to the next category on the Conservation Priority List, Microgrants have targeted nearly one third of the more than 150 breeds on the list in just five years. From improving infrastructure to expanding educational opportunities, these investments help secure and sustain heritage breeds in a changing world.

“Being a member of The Livestock Conservancy for more than 20 years, I have certainly enjoyed reading about the wonderful work the organization has done to promote heritage breeds,” Pat Lusted said. “I have not lived the lifestyle to keep animals but wanted to help. I find Microgrants are a great way to pay it forward. I especially like the synergy of the two Puerto Rican Paso Fino horse recipients this year. Creating opportunities to work together is how we move the needle to save heritage breeds from extinction.”

Congratulations to all of the recipients this year, representing 7 of the 11 species on the Conservation Priority List. Learn more about the 2022 recipients and the breeds they are saving from extinction below.

2022 Youth Microgrant recipient collage

Youth Microgrant Recipients

  • Carter Benini breeds Blanc de Hotot rabbits and is an active member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and his local 4-H club in Delaware. He loves teaching others about rabbits and regularly works with disabled communities and his local community college. Carter plans to improve his outdoor rabbitry and expand his breeding program.
  • Braydn Starkenburg, an active junior member of the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association and his local 4-H club, will improve the genetics of his South Dakota flock with two new unrelated ewes and a ram. There are few Lincoln sheep in South Dakota and Braydn hopes to increase interest in the breed by entering his sheep at local fairs and livestock shows.
2022 Breed Association Microgrant recipient collage

Breed Association Microgrant Recipients

  • Launched in 2019, the Hog Island Sheep Breeders Association’s early growth was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. They have now developed new Articles of Incorporation and applied for 501(C)3 non-profit status. Microgrant funds will be used to create a new website, improve recruitment through social media, create brochures, and hold an owners meeting in 2023.
  • The Pure Puerto Rican Paso Fino Federation of America will upgrade their registry software to offer online database searches for owners. With the enhanced functionality, users can research pedigrees and evaluate hypothetical matings to better conserve the breed’s genetic diversity. Once upgraded, the Federation will expand services to Puerto Rico, where only paper records are available for research at this time.
2022 National Microgrant recipients collage

National Microgrant Recipients

  • Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Fiber Provider Lucienne Brown raises Dorset Horn sheep on her farm in New Hampshire. She plans to build a chute and handling system to make it easier for students to learn about sheep husbandry through hands-on experiences. With easier handling, Lucienne will also provide data to the National Sheep Improvement Program.
  • Larry Daugherty plans to clear more land on his farm in Pennsylvania for pasture. With support from Premier 1 Supplies, he will then introduce new bloodlines to his Galloway cattle and Large Black and Red Wattle pigs. By expanding his herds, Larry hopes to host on-farm educational programs, mentor more new breeders, and give back to fellow veterans who are interested in pursuing heritage breeds.
  • Alondra M. Diaz Lameiro will collect, catalog, and analyze the Puerto Rican Paso Fino horse’s morphological, behavioral, and genetic diversity to help breeders make more informed breeding decisions. He will collaborate with all three breed associations, both on the island and mainland, and with students at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, in Puerto Rico.
  • Old World Wisconsin, one of the world’s largest outdoor museums depicting rural life, will start a Java chicken Animal Ambassadors program. As the second oldest breed of chickens in the United States, Javas play a significant role in rural American life on historical farms. The museum will build a chicken coop and promotional panels to tell the story of Javas on American homesteads. This will be incorporated into their new Animal Ambassadors facility that will host interactive experiences for visitors.
  • Helen E. Raleigh plans to install an automatic waterer for her herd of Randall Lineback cattle in Delaware. The improved infrastructure will ensure pregnant cows and calves are never without water and enable her to implement new rotational grazing practices to improve foraging.
  • Connie Jean Ribbeck raises Sebastopol geese in Washington. She plans to improve fencing to increase the amount of forage available to her birds, especially goslings. By saving on feed, Connie will be able to attend more poultry shows and support poultry clubs to encourage more breeders to get involved with this Threatened breed.
  • Tiffany Taylor raises Crème d’Argent and Silver Fox rabbits in Indiana. With support from KageWerks, Inc., she plans to improve both her grow-out system and marketing opportunities for the Creme d’Argent Federation. An active mentor for new breeders, Tiffany will also sanction 12 rabbit shows in 2023 to increase visibility for the Threatened Creme d’Argent breed.

The Livestock Conservancy is the leading umbrella organization for rare and endangered livestock and poultry breeds in the United States. More than 170 breeds such as Puerto Rican Paso Fino horses, Randall Lineback cattle, Sebastopol geese, Dorset Horn sheep, and Blanc de Hotot rabbits are endangered and appear on The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. The annual rankings reflect known populations worldwide. Conservation of North American breeds, such as Java chickens, Red Wattle pigs, and Hog Island sheep, is especially important as these are found nowhere else in the world.

If you would like to learn more about supporting heritage breed livestock and poultry farmers, youth, and organizations through The Livestock Conservancy’s Microgrant Program, please email Karena Elliott at kelliott@livestockconservancy.org. Applications for 2023 Microgrants will open in June on The Livestock Conservancy’s website at livestockconservancy.org.


Photo credits: All photos are submitted courtesy of the microgrant recipients. Photos courtesy of Braydn Starkenburg’s family were taken by Olivia Spaight Creative.