The Livestock Conservancy

The Livestock Conservancy

With this being the Livestock Edition of Central Florida Ag News, I thought I would focus on an organization that likely isn’t well known outside the world of agriculture. That’s The Livestock Conservancy.

The mission of the conservancy is succinct in words but grand in scope: “To protect endangered livestock breeds from extinction.”

The Livestock Conservancy was founded in 1977. Since that time, it’s been the “central hub” for anything having to do with rare breed conservation in the United States. The conservancy helps to ensure the future of rare-breed agriculture through research, education, outreach, marketing and promotion, and genetic rescues. On its website, livestockconservancy.org, the conservancy publishes America’s list of endangered farm animal breeds — cattle, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, donkeys, and poultry.

Why save these animals? The Livestock Conservancy and its supporters have many good reasons, with these being key:

  • To protect our food systems by keeping alternative livestock and poultry genetic resources secure.
  • To conserve valuable genetic traits such as disease resistance, survival, self-sufficiency, fertility, longevity, and foraging ability.
  • To preserve our heritage, history, and culture.

Among the many animals on the conservancy’s list for protection is one dear to many Floridians — a “heritage breed” known as Florida Cracker cattle.

The Livestock Conservancy defines heritage breeds as “traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers … (T)hey thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture.”

The Florida Cracker is historically significant because:

  • It’s one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the United States, descending from Spanish cattle first brought to the New World in the early 1500s.
  • It’s in the “criollo” cattle group — “of European origin but born in the New World.”
  • It was shaped primarily by natural selection in an environment generally hostile to cattle.

“This resulted in a breed that is heat tolerant, long lived, resistant to parasites and diseases, and productive on the low quality forage found on the grasslands and in the swamps of the Deep South,” the conservancy reports.

The Florida Cracker really didn’t have any competition until the 1900s, and with that competition came a price. An influx of other heat-tolerant breeds to the Deep South and cattle cross-breeding resulted in the near commercial abandonment of the relatively small Florida Cracker and its near extinction. It was only through the efforts of a few Florida families, that were committed to saving the breed that it survived in its pure form.

Today, the Florida Cracker cattle breed is under “critical” status on The Livestock Conservancy’s list of endangered farm animal breeds.

You can learn more about the Florida Cracker breed on the conservancy’s website.

Thanks again for reading my column.

This column is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing agency with five locations in Polk, Hillsborough, and the DeSoto counties. You can visit his agritourism-ranching operation at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher, citrus grower, and former member of the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges, concerns, and importance of today’s farmer. Together, we can Keep Florida Growing!