What’s the Big Deal About Heritage Livestock?

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Should you choose modern breeds or heritage livestock for your homestead? Here’s why heritage animals are often the preferred choice for today’s small farmers.

When starting your own homestead, you may be wondering whether you should go with heritage livestock breeds, or stick with the modernized breeds that have become more common among today’s farmers. What’s the big deal about heritage breeds, anyway?

When you take a look back at the history of farming, you will see that heritage breeds have a long and diverse history on small farms, and you’ll understand why many modern homesteaders feel that heritage livestock is the only way to go.

Modern industrial farming typically raises animals for one specific purpose – whether it be for meat, milk, or eggs. But traditional farmers didn’t make this distinction, utilizing the full range of potential benefits that each animal could provide. This meant that the breeds of animals they raised were more versatile – for example, well suited for both milk production and meat – making them perfect choices for the small homestead.

Here are a few more reasons why you may want to consider heritage livestock breeds for your homestead:

Heritage breed animals are not just important because of their versatility on the farm.  They also help to diversify the farming industry. According to recent studies, within the United States more than 83% of dairy cows are Holsteins, similarly 75% of pigs are one of three main breeds, and the majority of chickens in factory farm come from only few select breeds.

There are many reasons that diversifying the breeds available to the American farmer is important, including increasing disease resistance and expanding the genetic pool.

Heritage breeds also connect us with our past in a unique way. There is something special about connecting with your roots by keeping the same breeds of livestock on your farm as your ancestors did…

Raising these breeds responsibly also does a great deal to preserve types of livestock that might otherwise go extinct. Beyond their many useful attributes, these breeds and their rich legacy deserve to continue diversifying the American farm.

Smaller homesteads may find that adding heritage breeds gives their farm a splash of color or a great conversation piece, which alone can bring attention to a small local farm.

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If you have a small, family farm, heritage breeds are the way to go, even if their rich history is not a priority for you. Their versatility alone makes them perfect for the small farm, and hearkens back to a time when all of our food was grown and raised by families that needed to diversify in order to ensure the health of their farm and success of their harvests.

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If you are considering breeding heritage breed animals, make sure not to cross breed which further dilutes the types. Try to mix strong genes, breeding good egg layers or animals with the perfect identifying marks of the breed with each other. With a little bit of attention it is easy to help bring these rare types back to their iconic place in the American barnyard.

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