Thinking about starting a farm with heritage breeds? If you are new to this topic, you may enjoy An Introduction to Heritage Breeds: Saving and Raising Rare-Breed Livestock and Poultry by The Livestock Conservancy.
This excellent beginner’s resource starts with the basics—defining breeds in general and heritage breeds in particular. It discusses the plight and importance of rare breeds, as well as the necessity to maintain genetic diversity within these breeds despite their falling numbers.
After a look at how different farming systems call for vastly different breeds, An Introduction to Heritage Breeds moves on to considerations of importance to new farmers, helping them honestly assess what species of livestock will best fit their needs and circumstances. Factors to weigh include:
- Handling ease.
- Noise and odor level.
- Shelter and space requirements.
- Zoning restrictions.
- Daily food and water requirements.
- Predator control.
- Processing and transportation.
- Potential markets.
- Breed associations and other resources.
Next comes information on getting started with heritage breeds:
- Choosing a breed.
- Providing for the basic needs of your livestock.
- Setting realistic goals for your project.
- Setting up a system of animal identification and record-keeping.
- Planning to market your livestock or livestock products.
Maintaining a heritage breed requires close attention to the principles of genetics and selection, particularly when the breed is teetering on the brink of extinction. An Introduction to Heritage Breeds provides an overview of this process in nontechnical terms. It also demonstrates that rare breeds can be maintained and promoted through breeding projects with very different emphases:
- Performance and exhibition.
- Production only.
- Production and breed conservation combined.
- Rescue of rare breeds or bloodlines.
The book closes with a look at how breed associations can either help or hurt a rare breed.
While An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is not a comprehensive guide to breeds, it does provide numerous breed snapshots, distilling the most essential facts about the distinctive characteristics of many breeds.
If you are serious about working with heritage breeds, you will quickly outgrow this resource. We recommend supplementing it with resources specific to your chosen species, including a guide to care, a guide to breeding and genetics, and a breed encyclopedia. If you can find any works written entirely about your breed, make it a point to add those to your bookshelf, as well.
An Introduction to Heritage Breeds is exactly what the title suggests—an introduction, concise and clear enough for a reader with no prior experience with animals.
Heritage Livestock Breeds Comparison Charts
Great resource for comparing heritage breeds of all types at a glance, also from The Livestock Conservancy.
Our own guide to the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of cattle breeds, including some heritage breeds.
Horse & Donkey Breeds
Our own guide to the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of horse and donkey breeds, including some heritage breeds.
Our own guide to the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of goat breeds, including some heritage breeds.