Each November the Livestock Conservancy holds its annual conference, and in 2016 Backyard Green Films traveled to Amherst, MA to record the event for the Conservancy’s upcoming documentary on Heritage Breed animals. The Livestock Conservancy partners with 150+ breed associations to help conserve, support, train, and promote individual heritage breed animals, and this conference is a great way to bring like-minded individuals and groups together for a valuable networking and educational forum.
From Shetland Sheep, American Guinea Pigs, Milking Devon Cattle, Dutch Belt Calves and Seed Saving – to Chicks in the Classroom, Saving Rare Equine Breeds, Marketing your Farm, Controlling Pig to Human Diseases (YIKES!!) and much more, the 2016 conference was a bevy of information, sharing, networking and making forever friendships … here are a few highlights:
The conference kicked off with a banquet and opening keynote address by Tom Beeston, British dairy farmer and Executive Director of Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Mr. Beeston also heads up food sourcing and sustainability at the UK’s Bennett Hay bespoke hospitality services.
“The founders of the trust [in 1973] recognised the importance of ensuring that the genetics of our native breeds were preserved, but they may not have realised just how much more significant they could be for future generations of food producers.” -Tom Beeston
Issues such as climate change, the impact of rising incomes in the developing world and a surging demand for animal products had yet to be raised then. It’s now predicted that, by 2050, demand for animal protein will be 50%–100% higher than now and that demand has to be satisfied against a background of major environmental changes.” – Tom Beeston
Finances, Fundraising and Tips on Rare Breed Dairy Sales
Ryan Walker, Livestock Conservancies Marketing and Communications manager and Judy Wellen, a retired resource development specialist led a session focused on finances and fundraising for rare breed nonprofit organizations. Shannon Nichols, a regional planner who specializes in food systems, also led a discussion on start up resources, licensing, potential markets, and regulations on using minor cattle and goat breeds for dairy product sales.
Not all Pigs are Created Equal
Felicia Krock (Triangle K Ranch) and Kimberly Ruessler (Lola Farms And Gardens) explained the importance of registering only the best of the litter, potential illnesses and birth defects resulting from indiscriminate breeding practices, and how offering pork can positively effect the preservation of heritage breed hogs.
The SVF Story
Sarah Bowley of SVF Foundation discussed the history and goals of this nonprofit that preserves semen and embryos from rare/endangered breeds of food and fiber livestock. She also spotlighted the specific breeds that have contributed to the SVF repository, and how the SVF’s library of frozen material is vital for protecting the world’s food supply.
Diversify Your Flock While Maintaining Pedigree
This session was a great collaboration of experts – Julie Gauthier, Tom Beeston, Brian Larson, Dr. Phil Purdy, and Elwood Quinn led the Import Roundtable, a panel of experts that explored the process of making a genetic importation while maximizing its impact on the entire breed. They also discussed the importance of preventing dilution of key genetics that are already found in the US through “popular sire syndrome” that is often associated with imports.
Backyard Green Films also had the opportunity to conduct interviews with conservators and managers of several heritage breed operations, including Van Brown of Firefly Farms. Having thoroughly enjoyed the 2016 conference, we’re looking forward to The 2017 Livestock Conservancy National Conference, scheduled for November 9-11 in Williamsburg, VA.
“The Livestock Conservancy national conference isn’t just about learning from fabulous workshops given by experts, it’s about meeting like-minded people and forever friendships. It’s about individual heroes taking action before it’s too late—and saving endangered breeds from extinction. It’s about preserving the genetics of true nutrition and satisfying taste of heritage breeds. It’s about honoring, preserving and protecting the future for our entire planet.” –Patricia Foreman, Poultry Pioneer