Current Projects

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!

Shave 'Em to Save 'Em Challenge

Wool sold to the wool pool in the Northeast in 2016 brought between $0.60 - $0.85/ lb. During the same period, raw wool sold directly to consumers through specialty markets, such as Etsy, sold for remarkably higher prices, from $8 - $40 per pound. Interest in fiber arts is high, and this represents a valuable market opportunity for heritage breed wool. Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em is a challenge campaign for the promotion of rare breed wools to engage both producers and consumers. Educational blogs, videos, and tip sheets will help breeders to build their capacity in order to develop and meet a demand for heritage breed fibers. Milestones, prizes, and an online community will encourage fiber artists to use fiber from each of seventeen rare sheep breeds. The more wools an artist utilizes, the greater the reward.

Sheep breeders will benefit as they improve their wool quality and marketing practices, leading to greater farm revenues.  Education and promotion activities have the additional long term benefit of encouraging regional interactions and discussions among breed organizations and breeders, leading to new regional marketing efforts. 

Fiber artists come from all walks of life, and will benefit from more information about the form and function of many diverse wool types, and connections to local sources, expanding the palette of fibers from which to work.  Their customers and loved ones will benefit from the products created.

Local economies will benefit as fiber guilds, market outlets, breed organizations, shearers, and sheep industry groups experience more publicity, interest, and demand.

Endangered livestock will benefit as the farms that raise them gain financial stability, reducing risk of sheep enterprise failure, and benefitting other farm operations (including other endangered livestock enterprises). Publicity from this project will bring attention to the plight of endangered livestock and their role in modern farming, and the work of the Livestock Conservancy, with long term ramifications for conservation.

American Milking Devon: Strong genetics for a strong breed
(grant supported)

An iconic American breed is the American Milking Devon cow (AMD), the breed that built colonial America. Devon cattle crossed the Atlantic with colonists from England in the 1600s. Here they served as oxen to clear trees and stones from farms, provided milk for the first children born in the new land, and were served as beef at home and in taverns for early travelers. Three hundred years later, these cattle had all but disappeared. Forty years ago, the Livestock Conservancy (then the American Minor Breeds Conservancy) coached breeders in New England in the creation of the American Milking Devon Cattle Association to conserve these amazing cattle. Together, we secured the breed. But interest has not continued to grow and registration numbers have been level for more than 10 years. More conservation effort is needed, first to keep AMD from losing ground by becoming too inbred, and then to develop production data and promotion tools to encourage more farmers to use AMD on their farms.  Together, The Livestock Conservancy and the American Milking Devon Cattle Association are undertaking detailed genetic analysis of the herdbook and DNA to fully evaluate the status and breed structure of Milking Devon cattle, noting founders, pedigrees, and bloodlines. This will identify rare and under-represented bloodlines so that they can be incorporated into conservation breeding plans.  Cryopreservation is another priority to conserve genetic bloodlines and help breeders far away from each other to exchange genetics. 

Current production data for today’s American Milking Devon would be a valuable marketing tool for farmers and breeders. Understanding the expected yield of milk and beef from their herds will enable farmers to make better decisions for profitability, and can be used to promote the breed for small farms. However, these data are not yet available for the AMD. To address this lack of information, Northeastern farms raising Milking Devons will be recruited to measure production traits for beef and milk. Surveys will be conducted to document feeding and management practices that impact these traits. Milk samples will be evaluated for milk components and fatty acid nutritional profile. Continued selection of cattle for milk, beef and draft attributes will help maintain a genetically resilient breed.

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.
Java chicken selection clinic

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.

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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.
Florda Cracker cattle
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.
Frank Reese Jr. teaching a Heritage turkey clinic
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.

Tamworth pigs

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.
Alison Martin at Veterans Clinic
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.
Tampica Criollo from a herd in Texas


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!