In general, we look for Heritage Breed animals to raise. Heritage breeds are those that have been bred for generations and retain qualities that modern hybrid breeds do not possess. The Livestock Conservatory states that heritage breeds were bred to be self-sufficient and survive using older farming methods. Some of these characteristics are high fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.
Which breeds are heritage breeds? As a quick reference, they are the breeds of livestock that you would have seen at your great-grandfather's family farm. Unfortunately, many of these breeds are diminishing in numbers as they frequently are not suitable for large commercial farming. Therefore many of them are on the endangered, threatened or recovering species list.
Scottish Highland Cattle
With the iconic shaggy hair and large horns, Scottish Highland Cattle are definite show stoppers. Perfect for small homesteads, these cattle are smaller than commercial meat steers. Highlands are extremely hardy, have a long lifespan and are excellent mothers. They hardly ever need assistance with births and the bulls are gentle enough to stay in the pasture with the ladies even during calving.
They have been moved to the "Recovering" list as they are growing in popularity with homesteaders. The breed grows well on rough forage eating a lot of pest type plants including weeds and thistles. A variety of harsh weather also does not phase them. Due to their long hair, they handle cold, wet conditions with ease and do not require much in the way of shelter.
Their meat is said to be exceptional tasting and also lower in fat and cholesterol than other varieties of beef. The meat is insulated by their long hair instead of fat so the meat is very lean. The milk is rich and high in butterfat. They make a good family cow as they are relatively docile and calm cows.
With these triple purpose sheep are not on the Endangered list, they are an ancient breed that has never been improved - so to speak. This is the same breed of sheep that were running around during the Viking era. Ours tend to be a little more skittish, only coming up to us when they want to on their terms. They will eat food out of our hands yet stay arms length away when trying to pet them. Extremely smart for sheep (lol), they are also a hardy breed that loves to forage on rough pasture more than just grass. They love our blackberry bushes!
Our eight ewes are excellent mothers and lamb with ease. Our ram Seamus has a beautiful set of horns but some of our ewes are polled which means that a few are naturally born without horns. They have beautiful fleeces that we have tanned and sell as pelts. Hopefully in the near future we will also have wool available for those who like to spin or felt.
Not one of these ducks looks like another! Anconas are known for individual colors and patterns which add variety to the barnyard. They are currently on the Watch list which is a huge improvement form being critically endangered. A dual purpose duck, they lay large sized eggs and and are a decent meat duck weighing out at about 4-5 lbs. It also isn't as fatty as most meat ducks. These ducks stay close to home as they do not fly under normal circumstances and they love to forage. Like our other animals, these ducks are hardy and love to forage. Docile and relatively calm, these ducks also make good mothers hatching out their own offspring that they manage to skillfully hide from us.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
While not a Heritage breed, Nigerian Dwarf goats are incredibly adorable, extremely friendly and so small! These little guys are a miniature dairy breed that originated in West Africa. The milk is high in butterfat and their milk is said to have a higher protein percentage than others. The amount of butterfat and protein cause the milk to taste rich and sweet. A favorite for drinking and making ice cream! They are known for being affectionate and playful all in one little package. They have easy births with babies usually weighing around two pounds. Our does have had everything from singles to quadruplets. Nigerians get along with all of our other livestock and mingle among everyone else regularly. They particularly love our LGDs and you can find them hanging out together every day. The goats even let the dogs attend the births and care for the newborns.
Our resident goats are Gertie, Gizmo, Baby Doll and Barney. We have baby goats available periodically. Watch our Facebook page for availability and updates as they sell super fast!
American Guinea Hogs
The Guinea Hog is known by a few different names, but they all describe the small black pig that is perfect for a homestead. These pigs are currently on the Threatened list with the Livestock Conservancy. Amazingly gentle, these pigs are great with our family and other livestock. They flop over for belly scratches and mingle with all the other livestock including poultry, which is unusual for pigs. Guinea Hogs are community pigs so the boar stays with the sows while they deliver the piglets and then they all help to raise the little nuggets. They do take longer to grow than commercial hogs, which is about 6 months versus 14 months, but they can grow to butcher weight on forage and grass instead of depending on loads of pig feed. A Guinea Hogs meat is considered gourmet pork that has good marbling to ensure a tasty, juicy piece of meat.
Doc, our boar, is currently the only AGH we currently have but we look forward to starting up with them again in the near future.