The Livestock Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization. Our mission is to protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. Included in our mission are over 150 breeds of 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 working to stop the extinction of these breeds in the United States – 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 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 1800s, the Irish depended on one single variety of potato, the Lumper, for 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 an important segment of our American agricultural history!
Animal well-being: The Livestock Conservancy supports production and husbandry practices consistent with the historic purposes and uses of endangered breeds, leading to their good health, longevity, and full value in American agriculture.
Quality and integrity: The Livestock Conservancy practices science-based, genetic diversity conservation, and emphasizes research and education to expand and share knowledge and understanding of endangered breeds.
Diversity: The Livestock Conservancy emphasizes diversity of culture, perspectives, and practices in the realization of its mission, which leads to greater opportunities for endangered breeds of livestock and poultry, and for human prosperity.
Collaboration: The Livestock Conservancy encourages and participates in cooperative efforts at all levels of the organization’s reach. This includes working individually and collectively among all members of the heritage breed production chain: breeders, producers, processors, marketers, and consumers.
Stability: The Livestock Conservancy works to ensure the integrity of endangered breed genetic resources by maintaining a strong alliance with breeders and breed associations, promoting breeder livelihoods and breed resilience, and supporting the development of healthy markets and a strong consumer base.
The Livestock Conservancy remains committed to developing an inclusive community focused on protecting endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction.
Although our main mission is focused on animals, people make that mission possible. We seek to listen to the voices of underserved communities and to address the challenges that hinder some from joining the mission to save rare breeds. The future of agriculture, and especially heritage breeds, depends on a community working together.
Building an inclusive community has always been a part of The Livestock Conservancy’s core values and strategic plan, and we are recommitting a focus to those efforts. We believe that our work should reflect all traditional farmers, and that we should play a meaningful role in creating a just and equitable farming community. As the first step of this journey, we are listening and learning. Our staff are participating in inclusion training and reaching out to members and supporters to understand what a more inclusive community might look like. If you would like to provide feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The process of creating meaningful, sustainable change toward a more inclusive community takes time. As a vibrant, engaged community, your voices, participation and ideas are key to achieving this goal together.