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2012 Conservation Priority List

Endangered LivestockThe American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) today released its 23rd annual Conservation Priority List (CPL). The list is a tool for evaluating the level of endangerment of domestic livestock and poultry breeds throughout the United States. For 2012, there are 189 total breeds of livestock and poultry on the list, and 61 breeds are considered critically endangered.

“Many people are familiar with endangered species such as Siberian tigers, but they fail to realize that many domesticated breeds of livestock and poultry are suffering the same fate,” said Dr. Alison Martin, Research and Technical Programs Director for ALBC. For many of the breeds ALBC works with, there are fewer than 200 breeding animals left in the United States. “The Conservation Priority List helps raise public awareness that many historic farmyard breeds are disappearing from the agricultural landscape,” added Martin.

This year’s most dramatic change was the movement of the Newfoundland Pony from the Study category to the Critical category. Recent DNA investigations have shown that the Newfoundland breed has a unique genetic make-up and their numbers are declining, with fewer than 250 breeding animals left in the world. ALBC has shifted its conservation priorities to support the promotion and breeding of this critically endangered equine.

Aside from reporting conservation priorities, the list also reports conservation successes. Three rabbit breeds have improved their status on the list following an emerging trend in rabbit showing, keeping, and raising. In addition, the Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting goat has moved from the Watch category to Recovering. Many people know the breed for the unique stiffening characteristic it displays when alarmed, but more and more farmers are finding that the perpetual stiffening increases muscle size and creates an animal with a superb meat-to-bone ratio.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy publishes the Conservation Priority List once a year. The organization gathers census information from breed registries, through direct contact with breeders, and by international collaboration to determine a breed’s status. Guidelines have been established to define the conservation priorities.

“If you think about agriculture as a stock portfolio, you don’t want to invest all your money in just a few breeds. Diversifying your assets, through a variety of breeds, ensures genetic diversity and security for agriculture’s future,” said Charles Bassett, ALBC executive director. “The annual Conservation Priority List allows ALBC to assess the ‘breed portfolio’ and make the public and farmers aware of the critical importance of biodiversity in agriculture.”

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