Securing Rare Breeds in Drought Conditions

Reader Contribution by Jeannette Beranger
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Heritage breeds
are survivors, although some may be in for a very challenging year. The
national drought is about to have a huge impact on the American economy and now
is the time to plan ahead. Undoubtedly, food for home and feed for animals is
going to skyrocket in price this year because most of the corn crop and other
grains are under threat due to the drought. Forage for grazing animals has
suffered as well with many farmers already feeding hay at a time when there
should be plenty of grass.

are going to be facing hard decisions in order to weather the tough times
ahead. For stewards of endangered breeds, planning for the future is going to
be critical for the long term survival of these rare animals. It is their
responsibility as stewards to ensure that the breeds will live on, whether they
remain on their farms or go into the hands of new owners in this time of

Where to start?

If you live in an area of the
country that is still getting rain, consider growing supplemental feed for yo
animals. Depending on where you live, there are some forage items that can
still be planted this summer season such as cowpeas, rape, and buckwheat. In
the fall, think about planting with your animals in mind or imagine turning
your grass clippings into a food source. There is some great information on
small scale silage production that might be another answer to turn failing crops
into feed for your animals. See the resources below for ideas on gardening and
silage for your animals.

For those individuals who
will have to make the decision to downsize their herds or flocks, careful
consideration for which animals to keep is key. You must retain both quality
and diversity in the animals that remain on the farm. Taking a hard look at
pedigrees and bloodlines and then judging the animals based on how they conform
to breed standard will guide you in the process. It is much like judging by
card grading, which is outlined on the ALBC website here.

There may be situations
in which it will be financially impossible to keep any of the animals. In this
case locating a new steward will be the optimal solution versus the stockyard
or sale barn. If you must sell, priority must be given to making sure breeding
quality animals get into the hands of capable people. There are many
opportunities to network with potential stewards through breed clubs,
associations, and of course the ALBC network through the website and office.
Selection of which animals must go to other conservation breeders is similar to
the decisions involved in the previous paragraph outlining a strategy for
making priorities for “must keep” breeding stock.

The next year, and perhaps the future, is going to be a great challenge for
anyone raising and feeding animals. It’s time to start thinking out of the box
(and feed bag) and look for ways to affordably continue working with our
treasured heritage breeds. Planning is everything and an early start is a smart
move in the right direction.


Deciding What to Keep
– Card grading for livestock and breeder selection protocols for chickens and
turkeys, can be found here.

Financial Assistance and Support
– The government has a number of assistance programs that may be able to help
you get through tough times with your animals. These programs are specifically
for assistance in times such as these, and saving rare breeds is one very good
use of these resources. One of the best listings of these programs can be found
on the Farm
Aid website

Gardening For Your Animals
– A great resource for learning about gardening to feed your animals is on
author Harvey
Ussery’s website
, or on Mother
Earth News’ website

Help Finding New
Stewards –
has an extensive network of conservation breeders and rare breed enthusiasts.
ALBC members can list their animals in the ALBC
, visit the Online
, or view the Breed
to find others interested in your breeds.

Scale Silage For Feed
– If you have a lawnmower with a bag, you can potentially make your
own silage to feed your animals. Check out the following links for details on
small-scale production:

If you
have additional questions, please contact
the ALBC
for further information.

Jeannette Berangerwill present workshops at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets will be available on site.

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