Striking Heritage Breeds

Five striking heritage breeds of livestock such as the Belted Galloway, Nigerian Dwarf goat, Clydesdale horse and more for your small farm.


| September/October 2012


The most common question asked of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is: “What heritage breed should I get?” When responding to this question, we always encourage farmers and would-be farmers to consider their needs, environment, markets and climate (among other things), but we also encourage them to pick breeds they like. Just like picking a new dog breed for the family, you want something that appeals to your eye. You’ll see these animals in your pastures every day, and while looks aren’t everything, many heritage breeds combine allure and productivity to give you the best of both worlds. Take a peek at some of these heritage breeds with unique physical traits that will bring beauty and function to the farm. They just might stop onlookers in their tracks!

Belted Galloway cattle

Status: Recovering 

Often referred to as “Oreo cattle,” the Belted Galloway is a strikingly attractive breed, but don’t let its beauty fool you. Behind that black and white belted coat is a hardy, “rough and tumble” meat producer that makes an excellent addition to a grass-based, small-farm beef operation. Originating in Scotland, the Belted Galloway was first a color-variant of the Galloway breed. Further selection for the belted appearance led to the development of the Belted Galloway breed, which was recognized with its own herdbook in 1928.

Because the breed was developed in the rugged upcountry of Scotland, Belted Galloways have developed many survival characteristics such as a dense, shaggy winter coat, superb foraging abilities, and strong maternal instincts. Today, the breed is still known for its economical production of beef under range conditions. Belted Galloway beef has been described as tender, sweet and juicy – giving it great market appeal. Farmers raising the breed have found niche markets for the beef, but also a market for the unique belted coat through the selling of hides for rugs and other garments. Belted Galloways are medium in size, with cows weighing about 1,000 pounds and bulls averaging 1,600 pounds. The Belted Galloway is a naturally polled breed. Today, the “Beltie” is growing in popularity as farmers rediscover the beauty and performance of this historic breed.

Nigerian Dwarf goat

Status: Recovering 

The pint-sized Nigerian Dwarf goat is a cute and cuddly critter, but this little “kid” on the block packs a big punch when it comes to milk production for the small farm. In fact, many small-scale dairies are using Nigerian Dwarfs because their milk has a very high butterfat content (averaging 6 to 7 percent), which yields excellent cheese and butter.





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