The Livestock Conservancy has released its 2024 Conservation Priority List. This roster of more than 180 breeds across 11 species ranks the extinction threat for America’s farm animals.

Working closely with breed associations, breeders and conservationists, The Livestock Conservancy conducts a thorough analysis of data on each breed’s status, risks and opportunities. The results place each breed in one of four categories from Critical (most endangered) to Recovering. The annual list drives specific conservation programs, outreach efforts and promotion of heritage breeds. Thousands turn to the CPL when selecting heritage livestock and poultry breeds for their operations. This is the 38th year for the CPL.

“More than 4,000 volunteer breeders and 150-plus breed associations work diligently to ensure these endangered breeds don’t disappear from our farms, ranches and backyards throughout America,” explained Dr. Judy Brummer, interim executive director of The Livestock Conservancy. “In addition to historical roles often tracing back more than 500 years in North America, these breeds make important contributions to our country’s sustainable food and fiber needs of today and tomorrow.”

Conservation efforts have led to two breeds – Hereford hogs and Southdown sheep – graduating off the list this year. Additionally, the status of several breeds, including Spanish goats, Tamworth pigs and Rhinelander rabbits, has improved from the list’s “Watch” category to “Recovering.” In all, 15 endangered breeds are being reclassified in 2024, most in a positive direction.

Hereford pig

The population of Hereford hogs, a pig known for its docile nature and eye-catching deep red coloring with white trim, has grown sufficiently for the breed to graduate off the CPL in 2024. Southdown sheep, a dual-purpose animal raised both for wool and meat, also graduates off the list this year. Southdown are early maturing and prolific with lambing, making the breed an excellent choice for homesteaders and small farms. Like previous graduates, The Livestock Conservancy will continue to observe Hereford pig and Southdown sheep populations, but without the intensive monitoring devoted to CPL breeds. 

Southdown sheep

Three rabbit breeds have dropped in population, resulting in reclassification. Even so, seven breeds of rabbits improved their standing on the CPL. Rabbits can be an important sustainable protein source for smallholders, while also providing fiber, companion animal and showmanship benefits.

“Many of these once-common farm animals face extinction if we do not take action now,” Brummer added. “Rare farm animals represent an irreplaceable piece of the Earth’s biodiversity. They offer incredible genetic diversity that may be needed in the future for disease resistance or unique production traits. Saving these breeds is vital to meeting today’s sustainability challenges and ensuring food security for the future.”

The Livestock Conservancy promotes the usefulness of heritage livestock and poultry in providing fiber, meat, milk, work, sport, companionship or conservation grazing. Not a single breed listed on the CPL has been lost to extinction since the effort began nearly four decades ago.  In the last dozen years, 12 endangered breeds have “graduated” off the CPL, Brummer reported. 

The entire 2024 Conservation Priority List is available for download.