Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From the Front Lines to the Farm

First-of-Its-Kind Workshop to Teach Veterans about Heritage Breed Agriculture

Pittsboro, NC - Join the Farmer Veteran Coalition(FVC) and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) May 4 – 5, 2012, for a two-day intensive workshop that will help transform today’s veterans into tomorrow’s farmers. This first-of-its kind workshop will educate and train America’s service men and women on the skills necessary to steward some of America’s most historic and endangered farm animals.

“ALBC is the perfect partner for FVC,” said Chris Ritthaler, National Veteran Outreach Coordinator for the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “Many of our veterans come to us without a background in agriculture and do not feel constricted by ‘accepted’ American agriculture practices. Most realize the need to find niche markets in order to find success as a Beginning Farmer/Rancher and heritage breeds are the perfect opportunity for these vets to find their market share.”

The workshop, titled From Service to Stewardship, will be held at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, NC.  Friday’s program will include a full-day classroom session featuring many local farmers. “Friday’s activities will introduce attendees to a variety of heritage breeds that are a good fit for the small farm,” said Jeannette Beranger, Research and Technical Program Manager for ALBC. On Saturday, attendees will select a track and visit local, successful small farm operations where they will get an up-close look at the realities of heritage breed farming. Over the course of the two days, veterans will learn about hog production, poultry production, heritage cattle, raising equines, and small ruminant production. In addition, vets will be introduced to the marketing aspects of raising heritage breeds.

Veterans’ experiences of hard work, discipline, and dedication, as well as their training in planning and logistics, make them well-suited for entrepreneurial businesses such as farming. Many veterans come from small towns and rural areas where farming is an important element of the local economy. By bringing new types of farming back to these communities, these individuals help not only themselves and their families but give back to the local economy. “Our goal is to help returning veterans and retired service members improve their ability to succeed financially in heritage breed agriculture by providing them with the educational materials, hands-on training, information, resources, and consultation,” said Charles Bassett, ALBC Executive Director.

This workshop stems from the growing demand from veterans for more information about heritage breed agriculture. ALBC and the FVC have experienced a rapid rise in call volume and inquiries from veterans seeking help getting started with heritage breed agriculture. Bassett adds, “The men and women that fought for our country are now fighting for the futures’ of the historic breeds that founded this country.”

To register for the workshop, call the ALBC office at (919) 542-5704, or email The cost of the workshop is $95. Veterans have priority registration. After April 1st, the workshop will be opened up to the general public for registration.


About the Farmer Veteran Coalition:
FVC, based out of Davis, California, provides veterans with informational resources on beginning farming operations (e.g. links/contacts for appropriate federal programs, apprenticeships/internships), educational retreats and conferences and when available, small grants. FCV assists veterans in locating the resources needed to start a new career in the field of agriculture. Where available, they try to provide mentors for veterans as well as connections to agriculture training programs. When approached by new veterans they get a general picture of their service career and their specific interests and background in agriculture. FVC also has assessment tools to assist farming veterans in determining their strengths and weaknesses and to ensure that their needs can be met through the application of appropriate resources.

About ALBC:
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Founded in 1977, ALBC is the pioneer organization in the U.S. working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock. ALBC’s mission is to ensure the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.

For the full workshop agenda, visit:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Conservation Priority List

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) today released its 23rd annual Conservation Priority List (CPL). The list is a tool for evaluating the level of endangerment of domestic livestock and poultry breeds throughout the United States. For 2012, there are 189 total breeds of livestock and poultry on the list, and 61 breeds are considered critically endangered.

“Many people are familiar with endangered species such as Siberian tigers, but they fail to realize that many domesticated breeds of livestock and poultry are suffering the same fate,” said Dr. Alison Martin, Research and Technical Programs Director for ALBC. For many of the breeds ALBC works with, there are fewer than 200 breeding animals left in the United States. “The Conservation Priority List helps raise public awareness that many historic farmyard breeds are disappearing from the agricultural landscape,” added Martin.

This year’s most dramatic change was the movement of the Newfoundland Pony from the Study category to the Critical category. Recent DNA investigations have shown that the Newfoundland breed has a unique genetic make-up and their numbers are declining, with fewer than 250 breeding animals left in the world. ALBC has shifted its conservation priorities to support the promotion and breeding of this critically endangered equine.

Aside from reporting conservation priorities, the list also reports conservation successes.
Three rabbit breeds have improved their status on the list following an emerging trend in rabbit showing, keeping, and raising. In addition, the Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting goat has moved from the Watch category to Recovering. Many people know the breed for the unique stiffening characteristic it displays when alarmed, but more and more farmers are finding that the perpetual stiffening increases muscle size and creates an animal with a superb meat-to-bone ratio.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy publishes the Conservation Priority List once a year. The organization gathers census information from breed registries, through direct contact with breeders, and by international collaboration to determine a breed’s status. Guidelines have been established to define the conservation priorities.

“If you think about agriculture as a stock portfolio, you don’t want to invest all your money in just a few breeds. Diversifying your assets, through a variety of breeds, ensures genetic diversity and security for agriculture’s future,” said Charles Bassett, ALBC executive director. “The annual Conservation Priority List allows ALBC to assess the ‘breed portfolio’ and make the public and farmers aware of the critical importance of biodiversity in agriculture.”

Equid CPL Highlights:
The Newfoundland Pony moved from Study to Critical.

Livestock CPL Highlights:
The American rabbit moved from Critical to Threatened.
The Silver Fox rabbit moved from Critical to Threatened.
The Crème de Argent rabbit moved from Watch to Recovering.
The Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting goat moved from Watch to Recovering.
Criollo (North Central Mexican) cattle was added to the Study category.

For more information about how the CPL is determined, visit:

2012 Livestock CPL
2012 Poultry CPL 

About the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy:
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Founded in 1977, ALBC is the pioneer organization in the U.S. working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock. ALBC’s mission is to ensure the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.

Why are domestic breed of livestock and poultry in danger of extinction?
Modern agriculture and food production favors the use of a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in intensively controlled environments. Many traditional breeds do not excel under these conditions, so have lost popularity and are faced with extinction.

Why is genetic diversity important?
Like all ecological systems, agriculture depends on genetic diversity to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Genetic diversity in domestic animals is revealed in distinct breeds, each with different characteristics and uses.

Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to disease and parasites. As agriculture changes, we need to be able to draw on this genetic diversity for a broad range of uses and future opportunities. Once lost, genetic diversity is gone forever.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Breaking the Ice on Animal Dehydration

As you have probably noticed, the majority of the United States has experienced a relatively mild winter thus far. With that said, most of us will likely still experience several cold snaps where freezing temperatures will occur. Along with freezing temperatures comes the dreaded trips to the water trough to break the ice so animals can get a drink. Frozen water troughs also increase the possibility of dehydration among our animals which can lead to other complications like colic, decrease in milk production, and weight loss. While dehydration is often associated with warm temperatures, it can just as likely (and sometimes more likely) happen during the winter as well.

Some ways to minimize your trips to break the ice include:
  • Purchase a water heater from a farm supply store if frozen water is common in your area. Both floating and submersible models are available. Make sure the model you purchase has an automatic shutoff feature in case your animals remove the heater from the water and cover the cord with PVC pipe to keep animals from chewing the cord.
  • Place a basketball or soccer ball in water troughs that do not have electricity nearby or do not freeze as often. As animals drink or as the wind blows, the ball will move around preventing ice from building up as quickly.
  • Some automatic waterers are designed to prevent ice accumulation. Remember that the water source should not be exposed to the elements though, so be sure you are purchasing a model that is freeze-resistant.
  • Wrap all exposed pipes to prevent the water inside them from freezing. Certain types of faucets such as Bury Hydrants are designed to automatically drain water from the pipes that are above ground, thus preventing frozen pipes. In extremely cold areas, heated pipe tape or in-line pipe heaters can be used.
  • If your pipes do freeze, start unthawing them at the faucet in the “on” position, then work backwards. Starting in the middle could build up pressure that could burst the pipe.

A few ways to tell if your animal is dehydrated include: irritability, lack of energy, dry mucous membranes (mouth, tongue, nostrils, and eyes), decreased lactation, and “sunken in” looking eyes. A way you can test for dehydration includes the “pinch test” – grasp the animal’s skin between your thumb and index finger, then let go. If the skin stays tented for a couple of seconds, the animal is likely dehydrated. Well hydrated animals’ skin should quickly snap back into place. Another test includes lightly pressing your thumb against the animal’s gums. The gums should turn white, then back to pink soon after. If gums remain white for more than a few seconds, this is another sign of dehydration.

Following these suggestions will help keep your animals hydrated and healthy and hopefully minimize your trips to the water trough with the crow bar!