Heritage breeds of livestock and poultry have typically evolved in a particular location and environment. Many are named for their original locale….Suffolk draft horses, Shetland sheep, Cayuga ducks. They are typically most able to use local foods, cope with local weather, resist local parasites. They are typically more resistent to parasites and disease, and more able to forage and care for themselves than modern breeds developed for maximum production of a single product in a controlled, often indoor, environment.
Each livestock species varies in all characteristics we might imagine. Sheep are markedly different from goats, ducks are quite different from chickens, and so forth. And, within a species, each breed is different in its behavior, physical characteristics, physiologic and biologic adaptations to its environment. We may think about livestock as identical within a breed, that is far from the case.
In our sheep, goats and equines, each individual is different. We have California Variegated/Romeldale sheep who are more like dogs than sheep. Bridgette greets farm visitors, walks on a lead and loves to have her head petted.
Adelaide, a Leicester Longwool, lays claim to one grain bucket in a specific location unlike everyone else who goes from bucket to bucket.
Phillippe, a California Variegated/Romeldale, listens for the arrival of the metal water bucket and prefers to drink out of it rather than the communal buckets available to the whole flock.
Cowgirl, a Soay, makes eye to eye contact every day and baa’s for her grain apparently giving voice to the rest of the Soay flock.
Jake, our donkey, assumes that farm visitors will give him an apple or handful of grass.
Cindy, his Suffolk Punch draft pasture-mate, occasionally greets visitors, but evidently has determined that begging is beneath her dignity. Jake is determined to stay close to Cindy, but Cindy would be quite comfortable alone.