Heritage breeds

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This coming week is International Heritage Breeds week. From the email I received from the Livestock Conservancy...


"Several factors have contributed to the demise of these rare or “Heritage” breeds, but the leading cause is an increasing reliance on only a few highly specialized breeds in modern agriculture. “The priority over the past century has been to increase farm animal productivity – producing more meat, milk, eggs, etc. – in the shortest amount of time possible” said Martin. “We’ve made incredible advances in production through selective breeding, but when we focus on only one trait like growth rate, we lose genetics that influence other qualities like parasite resistance, drought tolerance, mothering abilities, or flavor.” Heritage breeds tend to have more well-rounded traits and are often quite hardy, which makes them perfect choices for small to medium sized farms or backyards, especially those looking for a less intensive style of farming"

My husband and I raise heritage turkeys and chickens, and buy our heritage pigs from a local farmer.

We have found that our heritage breed birds are much more successful with less management, are more intelligent than a lot of the modern utility breeds (I'm thinking cornish x and broad breasted turkeys here). Our Dominiques don't lay an egg every day but they lay for years. Out 3 year old still lays every other day.

Who else is raising heritage breed livestock?
 

Beekissed

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Great post! And I am. Every time I see a blog or video on self sustaining living and people extol the virtues of the red or black sex link chickens, I just turn away from their site. There is no self sustaining features about these breeds...they lay, they burn out early, they have a truckload of health issues and they die early.

They rarely go broody enough to replicate their own traits and they can't breed true to those traits if they did.

It's one thing to raise CX for meat...they are expected to die in that same season and they aren't "sustainable" either but at least everyone knows that without being told. But when these hatchery designed sex link birds are recommended by so called self sustaining living types, it's just bad information being passed along.

There are good dual purpose birds out there that have been bred for centuries to do that job well...lay well and put on meat well. They are hardy enough to live and produce for years without any meds, constant deworming or any deworming at all, for that matter, and they can reproduce their own kind with ease.

This current line of Plymouth White Rock chickens I have was started from a 5 yr old hatchery hen~still laying, still going broody and trying to raise chicks~and a standard bred male from a hundred years of collective breeding on the same lines. Mixing these two strains of the same heritage breed has given me some great results thus far, though they are far from perfect according to the standard, they are producing very well for this breed. Very well.

I've had eggs flowing for most of the winter and they are still flowing, even though I now have 4 broodies out of this small flock of birds of varying ages.

Heritage breeds are heritage for a reason....they've stood the test of time down through the years and they still can if a person tries to develop their natural traits. Culling for good genetics is the key....once you get sentimental or~on the flip side of the coin~ avaricious about it all, the genetics start to get pretty fuzzy.
 

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I've never dewormed my chickens. Ok once I did. We raised cornish x for meat up until this year. It didn't feel sustainable to me to order chicks every year, pump them full of food (although we raised ours on grass and only fed 2x/day) and worry about butchering them before they die because those birds are not meant to live.

We just got some Dorkings, which are not great layers, but they are supposed to be excellent meat and they lay well in winter and are great broodies. Our Dominiques are good layers, super friendly (the hens anyway) and decent for meat.

And then there are the turkeys. Broad breasted turkeys can't even breed naturally!

My friend buys and raises Yorkshire pigs. She likes that they're not super fatty. They're also not very smart and I have no idea how they would survive a NH winter. My other friend who breeds Old Spots and other heritage breeds... His pigs sleep outside in snowstorms...
 

Mini Horses

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Most heritage breeds were developed for dual eggs/meat as that was SS. And most needed to be good foragers (less feed to buy), broody (you didn't call a hatchery & ship like now) and needed to be year-round weather tolerant. While those hatching here now are cross-breeds, most are heritage crosses. Next Spring, several of the pure hens/roos will be penned to produce pure heritage fertile eggs.

Many of my crosses sell well to the in-town "no roo" areas, especially since the plumage generally offers diversity that they love so they can tell Susie from Sally:cool: and egg color is a selling point for many. Bragging rights in the neighborhood. Let's face it, 10 BUFF ORPS can be hard to tell apart.

It's like having broodies -- they KNOW their job & DO IT! Orps & Jersey Giants are some of my favs. I like the larger ones, they are calmer and less inclined to try to fly over everything. Just my own considerations. My Marans have been really good, also.
 
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Beekissed

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I agree. The larger breeds seem to be more casual and calm. My WRs are almost regal in their bearing as they stroll along, very calm and genteel. I call them the royalty of chickens, with their snow white, deep plumage and their regal way of standing or walking. Now, when they run, it's like seeing a line of NFL linebackers thundering down upon you! Very comical.
 

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Agreed. My easter eggers (yeah I know, not a heritage breed. Gotta entertain the 4 year old) are already driving me nuts because they're so flighty!
 

tortoise

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We have RIR. Our 4 original hens are 3 years old and still lay every day. Only health problems have been breeding injuries.

Also have a group of Cornish / Buff Rock chickens. Not the commercial cross, but starting to breed my own cross because we don't really like the RIR for meat - their legs are so long they don't fit in a crockpot or soup pot! We tried the commercial cross and I thought it was just awful, those poor birds don't even act like chickens! We raised them with purebred cornish and purebred buff rock. The difference in their behavior was so dramatic, I told DH "never again"!

I'm hoping to find a balance of production and quality of life.
 

frustratedearthmother

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I have several Heritage Breeds - but I guess the rarest one is Barred Hollands. They look like any other barred chicken, but they can be sexed at birth.
https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/holland

I really should be ashamed that I haven't kept working with them...just had a lot going on the last few years. I am down to one Roo and maybe half-dozen hens. Guess I should really count them...shame on me. :hide They are fairly quiet and the roo's make a good carcass. They're not huge, but I like the fact that they are tight feathered because they butcher cleaner than the loose feather breeds.

I also have Faverolles. They are such a pretty bird and they do lay well in the winter. Need to keep up on them too because I don't have very many of them.

Love, love love my Orps. I've got Black and Lavendar. Big beautiful, broody, make a good carcass... great birds. Miss having any Buffs though. Lost my oldest Roo when he was over 10...an awesome gentle giant.

I also have Easter Eggers - not heritage, but good barnyard birds. Rounding out the list are Light Sussex and Coronation Sussex and some crosses of all of the above. I'm really not sure if the Sussex are considered Heritage?

My AGH pigs are awesome. Love them completely and may never have any other breed of pig. They're easy to raise and easier to eat! YUM! Mom's have had zero issues farrowing and raise their babies without interference. I know I've been lucky because problems are always possible. But, so far all systems go!

At one time I had Pilgrim Geese. I would never have any other breed of Geese again. A very gentle breed that is easy to work with.
 

baymule

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I have 5 red sex links, I know Bee, but I wanted EGGS!! LOL And I have 10 Delaware hens, won't have them again! I have 4 Easter Egger hens, 3 of them with the HATED rooster, but I bought an incubator, have 14 chicks and 27 eggs in the 'bator. I am still searching for "the" chicken breed. I like Australorps and Speckled Sussex, but have not had either one.

We raise feeder pigs to slaughter size. The first batch were Large Black crossed with Berkshire. This batch is Red Wattle. I don't want to keep sows and a boar, I'll patronize those that do raise piglets and buy theirs.

Sheep are Dorper/Katahdin crosses, so I don't feel like I am "saving" a sheep breed from extinction.

Do you get bacon from the AGH? Or are they too short bodied? The Red Wattle are a bacon hog, I am drooling already!
 

frustratedearthmother

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Oh heck yes! I have pork belly in the freezer waiting to be made into bacon. I need to get to it...just too much going on right now.
 
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