Since we practice conservation of animals we thought you might like to learn about the different terms that we might use regarding our animals! One of our primary and most difficult pursuits is in keeping alive these landrace, endangered, rare and heritage breeds for future generations in an ethical and correct manner. While many other farms are bent of standardizing, improving and well, frankly making ‘american’ we are not! we do not select any of our charges based on color, size or other traits that would otherwise change them over a period of time as the potential of loosing very desirable traits is very real.
A landrace is a group of genetically related animals unique to a given geographical area. Landraces come about over time as animals within the area interbreed for many generations with relatively little outside influence. The fact that all of the animals within the population descend from the same set of ancestors, whether those ancestors came from one source or many, creates a certain level of genetic uniformity. This makes it possible for an observer to distinguish each landrace from other breeds and landraces.
The environment is the major factor that shapes the landrace. If a given animal is not suited to local conditions, it probably will not thrive and produce offspring, eliminating its genes from the population. Instead, other animals that can thrive in those conditions will produce the next generation.
Even though nature has the most say about the gene pool of a landrace population, humans also play a role. Indeed, this element of human intervention is part of what separates a landrace from a feral population.
People shape the genetics of a landrace both passively and actively. Passive selection occurs when humans alter the environment or its natural effect on animals through various management practices.
The history of many landrace breeds show us that humans have specifically chosen certain animals to reproduce due to their desirable traits and have culled others due to their undesirable traits. Sometimes the entire landrace population is shaped in this way, while in other cases one family of breeders has simply established their own bloodline within the broader population.
The factors that most landraces have in common:
Compare and contrast this with the characteristics of a standardized breed:
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.
Heritage animals once roamed the pastures of America’s pastoral landscape, but today these breeds are in danger of extinction. Modern agriculture has changed, causing many of these breeds to fall out of favor. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system.
Think we all know what endangered means….that means a particular animal is on its way to extinction and we at Num Num Farms are doing our part to help ensure that the endangered animals we have stay around for our children and grandchildren. If you would like to see a list put forth by the Livestock Conservancy group about endangered farm animals please visit them here.