The Livestock Conservancy is excited to award more than $22,300 to 17 farmers, ranchers, and shepherds raising endangered breeds of livestock and poultry across the country. Now in its third year, the Microgrants Program puts funding into the hands of our most important conservation partners – the people doing the hard work day after day to steward these genetic treasures for the security of tomorrow’s food and fiber systems.
“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 our panel of judges as excellent examples of livestock conservation in action across the United States. We’re especially pleased that the majority of 2020 grant recipients are raising breeds found only in North America.”
When Tilly Donohoe's family moved to a farm in Washington, she researched the best heritage breeds for her area. Tilly plans to expand her flock of rare breed chickens for an egg business and will make custom labels to educate customers about her heritage breeds.
Bailey Hirschboeck plans to build a mobile goose tractor for her Cotton Patch geese so she can keep more breeding pairs on pasture year-round at her farm in Connecticut.
Chloe LaBelle and her local 4-H chapter plan to build a predator-proof habitat for Silver Appleyard ducks at Tollgate Farm in Michigan. They hope to breed more ducks and create more educational outreach opportunities for their community.
Cullen Santino Le Roy plans to build a shelter for his Myotonic goat bucks to increase the genetic diversity of his growing herd in Illinois.
Emma Rexrode plans to build more breeding and brooding pens for her Black and Chocolate turkeys in Pennsylvania. This will help improve her hatch rate and the genetic health of her growing flocks.
Emalee Vickers plans to build a new farrowing pen for her Red Wattle sow that will be accessible during the winter. This will allow her to expand her pasture-raised herd in Montana.
Crystal Criswell plans to install a handling system with a gathering pen, sorting gates, and weighing scale next to her barn. Handling and evaluating individual animals will help improve the health and productivity of her St. Croix sheep herd in Ohio.
Laura and Bill Jensen plan to improve their fencing and Meishan pig grow-out areas on their farm in Georgia to increase the number of breeding pigs on their farm.
Martha Hoffman Kerestes plans to make improvements to her barn in Illinois. The new barn will make milking easier for her Dutch Belted and Heritage Shorthorn cattle and will open the door for farm tours and photo shoots.
Janna Miller plans to build a shearing shed for her Navajo-Churro sheep in New Mexico. She recently joined the Shave 'Em to Save 'Em Initiative and is excited to start marketing her fleeces and improving her breeding stock.
Audrey Morris plans to improve the brooding facilities for her flock of Cotton Patch geese in Kansas. Protecting the geese from predators and other disturbances will help increase their hatching rate.
Travis Morris hopes to increase the hatching and brooding rates of his Jersey Giant, Java, and Old English chickens, and rare breed turkeys with a larger incubator and brooder. He will also expand and improve his fencing and pasture for the growing flock.
Nash Farm in Texas preserves heritage breeds and knowledge for future generations through an easily accessible, 19th-century farm and education program that is open to the public. They plan to restore a corral for their Gulf Coast Native sheep and increase their educational outreach about the endangered breed.
Naturally Golden Family Farms Cooperative in Pennsylvania plans to develop, produce, and market Naturally Golden cheese made from Guernsey cattle. They will purchase equipment to transport milk and store their cheese.
American Mammoth Jackstock donkeys are known to have twins, which is dangerous for both jenny and foals. To improve foaling success at her farm in Texas, Megan Teel plans to use early ultrasound procedures to detect twin embryos. Early intervention will increase the number of surviving foals for the critically endangered breed.
Mike and Carlene Kerr know that every Cleveland Bay horse is important to a critically endangered breed and have spent many years building a genetically important herd at Epiphany Bay Farm in Virginia. Because of income losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they received assistance to help feed their herd through the winter.
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected agritourism to Dr. Marco A. Oviedo and Patricia Trujillo Oviedo's farm in New Mexico. Support helped feed their American Mammoth donkey jennies during the last trimester of their pregnancy.
The competitive Microgrant Program was launched in 2018 as part of “Next Generation Farming: Northeastern Heritage Livestock.” It has since expanded nationwide, with youth grants added to encourage future breeders of heritage livestock. Emergency Response microgrants were added in 2020 to help genetically important flocks and herds impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and other farming challenges. The Livestock Conservancy is especially grateful for the support of Standlee Premium Western Forage, Drs. Stephen and Marie Minnich, Drs. Pamela Hand and Will Hueston, the Stucki Family Foundation, and the many donors who gave to the Emergency Response Fund and who support The Livestock Conservancy.
The Livestock Conservancy is the leading umbrella organization for rare and endangered livestock and poultry breeds in the United States. More than 150 breeds such as Red Wattle pigs, Heritage Shorthorn cattle, Silver Appleyard ducks, Chocolate turkeys, and Gulf Coast Native sheep currently appear on The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. Their annual rankings reflect known populations across the United States and around the world. Conservation of North American breeds is especially important, as these are found nowhere else in the world.
The application for 2021 Microgrants will open in Spring 2021.
Photo credits: All photos are courtesy of the microgrant recipients.
Why is genetic diversity important?
Like all ecological systems, agriculture depends on genetic diversity to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Genetic diversity in domestic animals is revealed in distinct breeds, each with different characteristics and uses.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts and resistance to disease and parasites. As agriculture changes, this genetic diversity may be needed for a broad range of uses and opportunities. Once lost, genetic diversity is gone forever.
What Are Heritage Breeds?
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, 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 the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture.
Heritage animals once roamed America’s pastoral landscape, but today these breeds are in danger of extinction. Modern agriculture has changed, causing many of these breeds to fall out of favor. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system.
Interviews available upon request.
Contact Brittany Sweeney
PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312