Saturday, November 21, 2009

"The Ecology of Place"

That was the title of one of the talks we attended at the ALBC Conference. It refers to the fact that most heritage breeds originally developed the traits needed to flourish in a particular location.

For example a goat breed such as the San Clemente, which developed on an island off of California might not do well on a farm in Maine without costly and time consuming heat and special care. In other words, choosing a heritage breed should involve assessing whether the conditions that you will be raising the animal under are going to be the conditions under which the animals will flourish.

We've been doing a lot of talking lately about appropriate livestock for our farm and our family/lifestyle. We have a list of sorts that we are using now to evaluate the appropriateness of a breed or individual animal.

1. Can it be raised sustainabley? Mostly on pasture. Without a lot of outside inputs.

2. Will it need a special worming program or is the breed able to flourish in spite of the parasites that are indigenous to our area?

3. Will it need special housing? We usually (this summer excluded) have hot humid summers and at least some below zero weather in the winter. How will it do with the wind, rain and snow?

4. We consider mothering ability. This is very important as bottle babies take a lot of time.

5. Can we see ourselves with this breed in 5 yrs, 10 yrs? If I can't imagine going out to feed/water it in 5 yrs then I'm not going to spend time developing a sustainable program.

6. And of course there is the consideration of: will Grandma Marilyn approve? LOL This is my 73 yr old mother who lives with us. She has firm opinions on which animals are worth their salt. :) And she won't hesitate to be heard.

7. Does the breed fit with the other animals we have and the direction we are heading with the farm?

8. Do we enjoy the breed? Feel strongly about it's survival and it's value as a farm animal?

With these questions in mind we have been rethinking a few things on the farm.

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