Pets heritage breeds week celebrates farm animals electricity year invented

Last year 68 chickens, 2 goats, 13 horses, 2 pigs, 1 rabbit and 2 sheep came into the Tehama County Animal Care Center (TCACC). While we may often believe only dogs and cats are looked after at TCACC, as you can see, livestock and poultry have also been the recipients of their care. I have learned that next week, May 20-26, is International Heritage Breeds Week and, with consideration to the “other” guests of TCACC, I thought it might be interesting to pass-on some of the tidbits gleaned about the week and the agricultural community.

The first annual Heritage Breeds Week was held in May 2015 to raise awareness about endangered breeds of livestock and poultry in America. Since then, a consortium of livestock conservation organizations from around the world joined to host International Heritage Breeds Week, where many farms and ranches hold local events such as farm tours, workshops or lectures to raise awareness in their communities.

Heritage breeds are livestock and poultry breeds that were raised before industrial agriculture became a practice. The breeds were selected and bred to develop essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency. These heritage breeds, in other words, are comfortable living outdoors, can reproduce naturally, are resilient, resistant to pests and disease, and have a complex genetic makeup that helps them adapt to changing conditions, all qualities that make them well-adapted to their local environments. Farms, prior to World War II, were, on average, smaller and their livestock and poultry were varieties tailored for the locale. Shortly thereafter, these regional breeds were displaced by others that were selectively bred to reproduce and grow faster, withstand more cramped confinement, and generate more meat, milk or eggs.

According to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (http://www.fao.org), globalization of livestock and poultry markets is the biggest single factor in the erosion of farm animal diversity. In the past 10 years, worldwide meat production has risen by 20 percent. The FAO projected in 2016 a 3.5 percent global increase in poultry trade, with about 67 percent of that production coming from factory farms. It is also interesting to note that some 42 percent of global pork production is from factory farms. All this production has had a definite negative effect on heritage breeds. Of the more than 7,600 breeds in the FAO’s database, as of 2006, 190 have become extinct in the past 15 years and 1,500 are considered at risk. In addition, some 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have been lost between 2001 and 2006.

The Livestock Conservancy (https://livestockconservancy.org/ ) is a North Carolina organization that advocates for the preservation of rare and vanishing breeds, and keeps an official list of nearly 200 domesticated birds and mammals which are at risk. Among those listed as critically endangered are the familiar Texas Longhorn and the San Clemente goat, which originated on San Clemente Island, in the Channel Islands chain off the coast of California. For a complete listing of the various breeds and information regarding history, use, status, etc. go to their website and click on Heritage breeds.

In the face of climate change, disease, drought, and land degradation, diverse breeds of livestock and poultry could be of great importance for future food security. As a consumer, one way you can help conservation efforts is by putting a little diversity on your plate. By buying heritage breed products, you give farmers an opportunity to create and maintain niche markets. Eat Wild (http://www.eatwild.com/products/california.html) is a site that can help connect you to farms, ranches, stores, and restaurants that sell grass-fed meats, eggs, and dairy products within our community. In addition, the weather is nice, so why not visit one of the farmer’s markets in Corning, Red Bluff, and Lake California, where local farmers are happy to discuss their products.

Tehama County is an agricultural community. If you review the annual crop report, which provides a statistical description of the county’s agricultural production (put out by the Tehama County Agricultural Department, 1834 Walnut St., Red Bluff, 96080, (530) 527-4504), you will note that livestock, poultry, and their products are major contributors to the revenues generated within our community. Our support of such organizations as the Tehama County Cattlemen’s Association, The Tehama County Farm Bureau, Tehama County Future Farmers of America, the Tehama County 4-H program, etc. helps to insure not only our community’s future financial health, but that we will continue to see the wonderful sight of animals grazing in pastures.

Remember those “other” guests, previously mentioned, of TCACC? You will be pleased to know that those that did not go back to the homes they managed to stray from, were adopted. So yes, TCACC does care for more than cats and dogs and thankfully, within this community, there are people who still feel concern for and take an interest in, the livestock and poultry residents of Tehama.