Quantcast

Everything Animals: Reviving rare breeds - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Everything Animals: Reviving rare breeds

Guernsey cow Guernsey cow
Navajo-Churro sheep Navajo-Churro sheep
British Saddleback pig British Saddleback pig
Prepping Nancy, the Howacres Farm Guernsey cow, for judging. Prepping Nancy, the Howacres Farm Guernsey cow, for judging.

Tunbridge, Vermont - September 21, 2010

They say the cream always rises. It's an apt phrase, since the animal for whom that popular phrase was created is now trying to rise above the herd.

The Guernsey cow and its rich, cream filled milk is the inspiration behind that saying. The Guernsey, named for its original home on the Isle of Guernsey, was once the country's main source of milk, but the breed has fallen on hard times.

"When fat became a bad word and everybody tried to cut fat out of their diet and we homogenized milk and made 2 percent milk, the cows that made the high-fat percent milk weren't in as high demand," says Seth Johnson of the American Guernsey Association.

Seth Johnson and his family at Howacres Farm in Tunbridge are trying to keep the breed alive.

"Guernsey's account for less than half a percent of the total cow population," he says.

Classified as a watch breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Guernsey cow is in danger of disappearing, replaced by the high-milk-producing Holsteins. Even though Johnson estimates there are only 15,000 Guernsey cows in North America, he says he has hope.

"Just recently there's been a couple of new herds that have started up in the state, which is very promising, I think," he says.

That promise doesn't just pertain to Guernsey cows. At this year's Tunbridge World's Fair, rare breeds were anything but rare.

Rick and Sarah Scully raise Navajo-Churro sheep, the oldest breed in North America, at Terrapin Gardens in Tunbridge. But the breed was nearly wiped out during decades of conflict between the Navajo people and the federal government. Now they're finding new life in Vermont.

"They're a heritage breed, which is kind of like you would say of an heirloom tomato," Rick Scully explains. "It hasn't been changed over the years to be redder, or have fewer seeds or be sweeter."

The Navajo-Churro sheep has very low lanolin content in its wool, which makes it perfect for outwear and rugs. The breed produces more fleece than most and is shorn two times a year.

"They have natural sweaters so they're able to do really well during the winters here, but because we also have more nutrition in the pasture they're able to grow more wool," Rick Scully says.

Unlike most sheep that graze in pastures, the Navajo-Churro is accustomed to a desert-like landscape where they find food in low-growing shrubs and plants. Scully say Vermont's rich plant life provides a perfect diet for their herd.

Also growing in numbers is the British Saddleback pig. There are only three breeders in North America, two of whom were in Tunbridge: Steve Moeller from Ohio State University and Matt Whalen of Green Mountain Heritage Farm in Chelsea.

With fewer than 50 in North America, the British Saddleback is considered a study breed. That means the ALBC is looking into whether there are enough of them to bother protecting the species.

"I believe they're going to jump in here and start helping us," Whalen says.

British Saddleback pigs were largely bought up by commercial meat producers, which drastically lowered their numbers. But today's breeders find value in their large litter size, good mothering habits and sweet meat. However they have to be careful in how they breed the pigs since their small numbers make inbreeding a risk.

"We've sent offspring to Japan and Matt has purchased Saddlebacks from us," Moeller says.

Even though all these breeds are rare, they aren't obsolete. In fact there are still signs of their legacy in the items we buy today.

"The reason that butter is colored today is because people were originally used to a golden butter because it came from Guernsey cows and now, despite the fact that most of it comes from Holstein cows, they color it so it looks like what everyone's been used to for years and years," Johnson says.

Years and years of history that could have disappeared if not for these rare farmers working to keep that history alive.

To learn more about these breeds, visit the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at www.albc-usa.org.

Rachel Feldman - WCAX News

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 03:33:55 GMT
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
  • 2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    Monday, September 1 2014 10:15 PM EDT2014-09-02 02:15:25 GMT
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
  • Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:59:03 GMT
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
  • Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:08:26 GMT
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
  • Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:59 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:59:21 GMT
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
  • Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:52 GMT
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
  • Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:32:03 GMT
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
  • Body discovered in Massena

    Body discovered in Massena

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:02 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:02:43 GMT
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.