Why Raise Heritage Breeds?

At Quartz Ridge Ranch we focus on heritage breed livestock. “Heritage” breeds are simply the older breeds that fell out of favor over the generations. Most of these breeds were common on small farms before the age of industrialized operations. Not too long ago, livestock was raised on pasture on farms large and small. Farmers had different breeds of livestock based on their environment and needs.

The American Guinea Hog was the original homestead hog. They are a pasture pig so they can grow out nicely on grasses. They provided the homestead a nice amount of lard which was used for baking, frying, soap making, feed and many others. The small size was perfect for a family as they did not have the ability to store meat for long periods of time. AGHs are also great parents, the farrow easily with a smaller amount of hogs enabling them to raise them up with little or no complications. They take longer to grow to slaughter weight but the meat is delicious and well worth the wait. They respect fences and do not root much so putting them in your garden for a cleanup is a great way to feed them for a bit.

 

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The Oberhasli goat developed in the mountainous areas of Switzerland and was imported to the United States in the early 1900s. They are known for giving about one gallon of milk per day for ten months. These goats are very gentle and confident. The wethers are used for pack animals because they do not startle easily and handle the various conditions found on the trail.

 

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The Delaware chicken was developed in 1940 and was used for the production on broilers. They are an excellent dual purpose bird known for rapid growth and fast feathering of the chicks. The cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds. The Delaware chicken goes broody naturally and is great at raising her chicks. The roosters are calm and friendly. They forage well and are more economical to bring to market weights in a forage situation.

 

 

Fast forward a few decades and factory farming became popular. Factory farming is the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. The first animals to be factory farmed were chickens. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition led to vitamin supplements, which allowed chicken to be raised indoors. Then the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in larger numbers by reducing disease. In the 1960s pigs and cows began to be raised on factory farms. In 2005 factory farming accounted for 40% of world meat production. {Factory Farming Wikipedia}

Since the majority of livestock today is raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (look up that word if you want an eye-opener) producers have bred for qualities enabling them to grow faster and larger in horrible conditions. Livestock now has lost their hardiness, foraging skills, feed conversion, intelligence, ease of breeding/birthing, nurturing instincts and a flavorful end-product.

As agricultural practices change to meet the increasing demands of the future, the genetic diversity and qualities of the older breeds become more and more important. The result has been extinction and near extinction of the foundation breeds of our country. Most people focus on the extinction of wild animals like wolves or owls when we should focus on all species. Livestock can go extinct too!

We focus on the rare old heritage breeds and help preserve the genetics and save them from extinction. We are a small ranch and can only do so much but there is a growing group of dedicated farmers and ranchers that are focused on saving these heritage breeds of livestock.

If you are interested in learning more about heritage breeds or how you can help visit the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

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