Heritage Breeds Week starts May 21st. This may not be the most popular animal holiday on the calendar, but it is an important one, particularly for those who work with cattle and livestock. People have been keeping animals for thousands of years. Over that time, we’ve created thousands of breeds, by carefully mating animals with desired traits. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. However, many of those ancient breeds, or heritage breeds, are now in danger of going extinct, which would be a terrible loss. A Wichita, KS vet discusses heritage breeds below.
Heritage Breeds Week was started by the Livestock Conservancy back in 2015. The aim was—and is—to raise awareness of the fact that many formerly-common breeds are slowly vanishing. What is a rare breed? The group has a fairly simple definition: basically, any form of livestock or poultry that was in everyday use before the farming system was industrialized. Many types of farm animals, including cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep, have heritage breeds. Unfortunately, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Some estimates indicate that we lose one breed every month.
Benefits of Heritage Breeds
Protecting heritage breeds may sound like a niche or hobbyist issue, but it really isn’t. Why is saving them so important? Biological diversity is one big reason. Due to industrial farming, the vast majority of livestock are now from a few specific breeds. When large numbers of animals come from smaller and smaller gene pools, weaknesses are bound to surface. Heritage breeds also tend to be suited to specific environments. Plus, they just offer something different. This could be anything from rare wool textures to specific flavors/tastes of eggs or dairy products. They’re also often quite hardy. Last but not least, many of them are quite unique, and can be fascinating to observe.
How To Help
This is truly a noble cause, and one that could use some support. How do you help? Raising awareness about heritage breeds is one great option. You can also support local farms that keep heritage breeds. You can also consider purchasing, breeding, or rescuing heritage breed animals. If you already have some, put them in the spotlight. Sharing facts and photos on social media is a simple way to spread the word!
Do you have questions about your animals’ care? Contact us, your Wichita, KS pet hospital, today!