How to Select a Breed

Thank you for your interest in conserving rare breeds of livestock and poultry. Many times the The Livestock Conservancy is contacted by people like you who are interested in having a role in endangered livestock conservation and help with getting started. The following is designed to be that starting point. We encourage you to reflect on the following topics to determine which animal species is a good fit for you.

1. Consider your long range plan:

What do you want to do with your animals? Do you want them to be strictly ornamental or do you want to raise them for food, animal products, or breeding stock? If for food, would you be the sole consumer or do you plan to sell animal products to others outside your farm? What health regulations would affect the products that you plan to sell and who would be the market for those products? Would you also raise the animals for breeding stock? If so, what would you do with the stock you do not intend to breed?

2. Consider the context:

What is the context of your farm? Who are your neighbors? Is there a neighborhood association you would need to consult? Are your neighbors open to having livestock nearby? Would they be customers? Are there any codes or restrictions that currently affect what you may do on your farm? Would watershed or zoning regulations limit your land use? What predators inhabit the area? Contact your agricultural extension agent or local planning board to find out more.

3. Inventory your resources:

While you are researching livestock species, also conduct a resource inventory of your property, personal finances, and time to determine whether you have what is necessary to raise the animals you are considering. Take note of pastures on your property, ponds (and the quality of the water in them), barns, fences, and wooded areas. Do you have what your livestock would need? What modifications would be necessary? Do you have the financial resources for the upkeep of livestock? Would you need to buy any special equipment? How much time and energy are you willing to devote to raising your animals?

4. Consider your market:

If you are raising animals for market, carefully research and analyze how you will get your animals and their products to your end-users. Animals used for meat will need to be slaughtered. Are there facilities available? How will you advertise? Who will be your target customer? How will you distribute your products? If you plan to sell breeding stock remember that not all animals are of breeding quality.

5. Decide on a species to raise:

Think about what animals appeal to you. Do you prefer large animals or small animals? Fur or feathers? If you are unfamiliar with livestock and poultry, spend some time at local fairs and farms to see which species are the most interesting and attractive to you. Become acquainted with species characteristics, husbandry needs, and production uses. Will they fit your interests, capabilities, and resources? Choosing a breed comes next. Membership in The Livestock Conservancy will provide conservation and breed information as well as access to breeders.

More detailed information about choosing a heritage breed project for your farm can be found in An Introduction to Heritage Breeds.

The following is a brief table listing livestock species, the basic food needed for each of them, their products and uses, as well as their housing needs to help you consider the above questions. View the Conservation Priority List for more information about specific rare breeds.




Food eaten






Pasture, hay, grain

Fenced pasture, shade, water

Milk, beef, draft power


Pasture, hay, grain

Fenced pasture, shelter, water

Riding, driving, draft power


Pasture, hay, grain

Strong fenced pasture, shelter, water

Riding, draft power, driving, guard animal


Pasture, hay, grain

Fenced pasture, shelter, water, predator protection

Wool, meat, milk


Pasture, hay, grain, browse

Fenced pasture, shelter, water, predator protection

Meat and milk, land



Pasture, grain, forage, garden waste

Strong fenced pasture, shade, water, shelter

Meat, land cultivation, food recycling


Insects, plants, grain, kitchen scraps

Coop, fenced outdoor range

Eggs,  meat, insect control


Insects, water plants, kitchen scraps, grain

Outdoor range, pond is optional but recommended

Eggs, meat, insect control


Grass, grain

Outdoor range, pond is optional but recommended

Eggs, meat, feathers, down, weed control


Insects, larvae, seeds, nuts, pasture, grain

Coop, fenced outdoor range

Meat, feathers, insect control