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Saving Heritage Breeds

Endangered sheep? Really? Yes, I have recently become aware of an organization called The Livestock Conservancy. This group is dedicated to protect endangered breeds of livestock from becoming extinct. These breeds are referred to as Heritage Breeds.

From The Livestock Conservancy:

What Are Heritage Breeds?

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.


  I, along with some of our spinning group, have recently joined The Livestock Conservancy's Shave'em 2 Save'em Initiative. This 3 year program was created to promote the use of wool from heritage breeds of sheep and to help connect shepherds with fiber artists. In this program, fiber artists work with yarn or fiber from the 22 heritage sheep breeds. By doing this we are supporting the shepherds and farms raising these breeds and participants get to opportunity for work with and learn about wools that are new to them.

The first wool that I got to work with is from Hog Island sheep, a breed of sheep that I didn't even know existed. I am so excited to start this journey of learning!

For more information, check out The Livestock Conservancy's web site at www.rarewools.com
                                                                                                                            - Jenn


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