[Homestead] Preserving rare farm animals through science
genegerue at ruralize.com
Wed Feb 10 11:00:59 EST 2010
We instinctively see scientific meddling with plants as dangerous. In
this article, we see science meddling, but not changing, animals.
Instead, SVF is preserving them for a time when they may become
necessary or at least more desired than now.
Rare Breeds, Frozen in Time
By BARRY ESTABROOK
Published: January 5, 2010
IT didn’t take long for Chip, a Tennessee fainting goat sporting a
luxuriant Vandyke beard and an impressive pair of curlicue horns, to
live up to his breed’s name. When Peter Borden, accompanied by a
stranger, entered the immaculate stable that Chip calls home, the goat
pressed his velvety nose through the bars of his stall, begging for a
scratch. But at the visitor’s approach, Chip apparently had second
thoughts. His left foreleg stiffened, his brown eyes went glassy and
he began to list to one side.
“There he goes,” said Mr. Borden, the executive director of the SVF
Foundation, a heritage livestock preservation facility here. The guest
turned away, and Chip quickly recovered, his dignity intact. . . .
For all their efficiency and high output, modern livestock breeds have
become a weak, inbred bunch, Dr. Saperstein said. Fifty years ago
there were a half-dozen popular dairy breeds in this country. But
today, according to Lindsey Worden of Holstein Association USA, an
organization representing farmers and breeders, the country’s 8.6
million Holstein cows make up 93 percent of America’s dairy herd.
Fewer than 20 champion bulls are responsible for half the genes in
As an example of how vulnerable our milk supply is, Dr. Saperstein
points to a heat wave in California in 2006 in which some 16,500
Holsteins died, despite farmers’ efforts to save them with cooling
mists of water and fans. . . .
Before SVF, the preservation of heritage livestock was through natural
reproduction and largely the purview of dedicated amateur and
professional breeders and organizations like the American Livestock
Breeds Conservancy and Slow Food USA, as well as organizations
promoting specific varieties. “On-the-hoof conservation is important,”
Mr. Borden said. “But used in conjunction with it, cryopreservation is
a great long-term solution.”
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