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Current ALBC News Sample Article: March/April 2012

Changes to the Conservation Priority List for 2012

Every year, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy releases its annual Conservation Priority List (CPL), which provides an overview of endangered breed populations for domestic livestock and poultry breeds. The CPL guides ALBC’s conservation work and serves as a tool for monitoring the national and international health of rare breed populations. For 2012, ALBC has several favorable Conservation Priority List changes to report.

Topping the list of changes is the growth of several rabbit breed populations including the American, Crème d’Argent, and Silver Fox rabbits. In 2005, rabbits made their first appearance on the list, and after seven years of active conservation efforts by breeders, ALBC is excited to improve the status of these three breeds. Specifically, the American moved from Critical to Threatened, the Crème d’Argent moved from Watch to Recovering, and the Silver Fox moved from Critical to Threatened. The American Rabbit Breeders Association reported larger populations for all of these breeds, and their rising interest was evident by the popularity of a workshop on breeding rabbits for productivity held at ALBC’s 2011 Annual Conference in Wichita, Kansas. The American and Silver Fox breeds are good dual-purpose rabbits bred for meat and fur qualities, while the Crème d’Argent is a gentle, slightly smaller breed prized for its unique fur.

Criollo cattle, originating from Northern Mexico, have been added to the Study category
. Criollo cattle descend from the first cattle brought by the Spaniards to the Americas more than 400 years ago. The Criollo from Northern Mexico is a rugged breed that is adapted to high heat loss and thriving on the sparse forage found in semi-arid environments. There are three important herds of these cattle in the United States (in Texas, Colorado, and Arizona) that were established from breeding stock from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. In 2011, ALBC’s Research and Technical Program Manager  Jeannette Beranger and ALBC member Jess Brown (an expert on Spanish-type in cattle) visited the Texas herd to document and photograph the appearance of the cattle and compare them to other Criollo and Spanish breeds, and their photographic observations were reviewed by ALBC’s Technical Advisor Dr. Phil Sponenberg. Based on the confirmation of Criollo and Spanish phenotype in the majority of the Texas herd, ongoing selection for this phenotype, and the rarity of Criollo cattle throughout the Americas, these cattle are important for conservation. They have been placed in the Study category pending evaluation of the Arizona and Colorado herds as well as results from genetic studies.

Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting goats have moved from Watch to Recovering.  This sturdy landrace breed is characterized by myotonia, a genetic trait that causes their muscles to stiffen when the goats are startled.. Indeed the myotonia stimulates muscle development, and their higher meat-to-bone ratio offsets their somewhat slower growth rate compared to some other breeds of meat goats. Multiple registries serve this breed, and breeders have spread the word about the importance of registering breeding animals. This breed is enjoying a comeback as a meat goat. ALBC is excited to see this upward trend for the breed.

The Newfoundland Pony, added to the Study category in 2011, has now moved to Critical
. The Newfoundland’s history is exemplary of what it takes to make a breed. Like many breeds, their roots are in several older breeds that came to the Newfoundland province of Canada with colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries. In their new home, the fledgling breed was isolated from its foundation stock, and was strongly influenced by the maritime environment and its use by local farmers and fishermen in plowing, hauling, and transporting goods and people. Mechanization put these ponies out of a job. In the 20th century, and they were dispersed, slaughtered, and ignored so that now the population of breeding animals is only about 200 to250 and widely scattered. DNA studies published in 2011 confirmed the unique genetic makeup of this breed. During this same time, ALBC was confirming the breed’s history and census numbers through the assistance of several dedicated breeders. By moving the Newfoundland breed into the Critical category on the CPL, ALBC also shifts its conservation activities from the discovery phase to the secure phase, highlighting how the CPL informs the work ALBC does to support each breed.

In 2012, ALBC will be keeping a watchful eye on breeding populations of certain breeds of waterfowl, turkeys, and sheep, as some long-time breeders reduce their flocks. Succession planning is a critically important and sometimes challenging phase for breeders who can no longer participate in conservation breeding at the levels they once did, and dispersal of breeding herds and flocks remains a threat to rare breeds if careful planning does not take place.

For 2012, there are 189 total breeds of livestock and poultry on the CPL. There are a total of 61 breeds listed in the Critical category of which 29 are poultry breeds and 32 are mammalian breeds.
ALBC members should take great pride in the conservation successes that contributed to the changes to the 2012 CPL. Thanks to our members for promoting, breeding, and raising rare breeds of livestock and poultry throughout the country, ensuring their genetic continuity.

For more information about the CPL, please contact ALBC’s Research and Technical Programs Director Alison Martin, amartin@albc-usa.org or call (919) 542-5704.

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