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.”
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.
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