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International Heritage Breeds Week aims to raise global awareness about endangered heritage breeds of farm animals. Many of our traditional livestock and poultry breeds have been replaced with more "improved" breeds in modern animal agriculture, at the expense of a massive loss in genetic diversity. Worldwide, about one domesticated livestock breed every month is lost to extinction.
"To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction."
International Heritage Breeds Week will be held during the third full week of May each year, with International Heritage Breeds Day being held the ending Saturday of that week.
What are Heritage Breeds?
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised 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 local environments and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture. Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites. Other names sometimes used interchangeably with 'Heritage' include: Native, Minor, Rare, Endangered, and others.
The first annual Heritage Breeds Week was held in May, 2015 across the United States to raise awareness about endangered heritage breeds of livestock and poultry in America. A national campaign was launched by The Livestock Conservancy promoting the weeklong event and heritage breed farmers, enthusiasts, and the public were encouraged to spread the word throughout their networks. The week of awareness culminated on with National Heritage Breeds Day where many farms and ranches held local events such as farm tours, workshops, or lectures to raise awareness in their communities.
The event was so successful that The Livestock Conservancy now partners with a consortium of livestock conservation organizations from around the world to host International Heritage Breeds Week each year. The fifth annual International Heritage Breeds Week will be held 19-25 May, 2019.
International Heritage Breeds Week is an opportunity for livestock conservation organization members, fans, and sponsors to advocate for conservation of heritage breeds in agriculture. It's a time to share with local, state, national, and international audiences what livestock conservation is all about and the impact it has on heritage breeds and agriculture every day. Help us promote International Heritage Breeds Week and Day by word-of-mouth, through social media, and to your local press.
Host a classroom field trip to a local heritage breed farm or ranch or to a historical farm with heritage breeds in your area. Or, bring the breeds to the classroom! This provides a great opportunity for children to learn about the importance of genetic diversity and conserving heritage breeds.
Invite one or more state legislators to visit local farms and ranches or set up a visit to their state office. Leave them with livestock conservation materials and samples of heritage breed products.
Visit a local nursing home and consider taking heritage breed animals with you. Many older folks once raised heritage breeds and will appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with the animals.
Local Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful place to emphasize the importance of heritage breeds. Arrange to have music, samples, fun games for kids and make a day of it.
Heritage Breed Petting Zoo
Organize a petting zoo where children and their parents can see heritage breed animals and learn more about them. Provide your own animals, or work with local farmers and ranchers to provide the animals.
Host a Celebrity
Invite a local celebrity who is familiar with heritage breeds, raises them; or has a friend or family member who has been involved with them and request sponsorship of International Heritage Breeds Week. Hold an event and ask the celebrity to speak about a personal experience involving heritage breeds.
Approach your local public or school libraries about organizing an exhibit during International Heritage Breeds Week. You might offer to arrange for a speaker or a lecture series about agriculture. Books about rural communities, animals, farms, etc., could be part of a special International Heritage Breeds Week section that encourages children to learn more about agriculture and how it affects their lives. The Livestock Conservancy’s book An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is a wonderful addition to any library.
International Heritage Breeds Day Breakfast
Host a Heritage Breeds breakfast for local government and business leaders. Identify a keynote speaker to talk about heritage breeds and plan your menu around locally grown and raised agricultural products.
Organize a Fundraiser
Host a fundraiser, such as a walk-a-thon, and donate money to national conservation organizations like The Livestock Conservancy and/or a breed’s registry, club, or association. Emphasize the importance of heritage breeds in the nation's agricultural system; pay tribute to a local farmer; or recognize all farmers who raise heritage breeds year-round.
Sponsor a community-wide event, such as a coloring or poem-writing contest for students. The children could acknowledge their breed or species. The drawings or poems could be displayed in local schools, hospitals, or nursing homes.
Showcase an exhibit at your local mall, shopping center, or public area to introduce the public to heritage breeds. Include examples of heritage breed products like wool, cheese, or eggs, as well as information on how these products are produced. Contact other local heritage breed producers to collaborate and display items and information. Consider conducting outreach and education in urban and underserved areas.
Encourage elementary schools to designate a day during National Heritage Breeds Week to distribute quizzes and puzzles with school lunches. This can also serve as an opportunity to explain the connection between farms and foods on the table. Contact your state’s School Food Service Association for guidance. Or, with cooperation of the school, donate items (milk, ice cream, meat, cheese, etc.).
Shows and Fairs
Promote a positive image of heritage breed conservation by sponsoring a local show or fair. Consider including exhibits, food stands, live animals or entertainment.
Rare Breeds Trust of Australia
Actas Iberoamericanas en Conservación Animal
Ganado Criollo Tarahumara
Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand
Rare Breeds Survival Trust