Heritage breeds of livestock are like Heirloom seeds of domesticated plants. They are a cultural legacy and a link back to our pre industrial past. Unlike our beloved wildlife creatures, Heritage livestock are completely reliant upon our stewardship, our management and our care. They are our coevolutionary companions. Without the amazing people who breed heritage breeds, ensuring their survival- an unbroken line of genetics that they protect- many heritage livestock breeds would be extinct. Today, many already are.

Permaculture principles teach us to value renewable resources. Let’s talk about chickens. Heritage breeds that can reproduce naturally are a sustainable, renewable and very valuable resource.

Broad scale commercial “farming” of food production chickens exclusively uses chickens that have been ‘developed’ for efficiency. These birds are not made naturally- and they can’t reproduce naturally either. The use of these birds has seen a huge decline in breeders of Heritage breeds. Heritage breeds cannot compete with the capacity that production birds have for efficiency. But birds that can’t reproduce offer no food security.

COVID has highlighted the fragility of our food distribution networks and how we cannot rely upon ‘big business’ to serve the very real needs of the population in times of crisis.

So, can we look at the breeders of Heritage livestock to ensure a supply of livestock? Drought, bushfires, drought….the HUGE increase in the costs associated with breeding animals has hit breeders HARD. Australian breeders of Heritage breed livestock have been struggling to survive for a long time, many have had to downsize, many have had no choice but to give up their expensive ‘hobby’.

I’m putting out the call to all those who might have the capacity. If you are thinking about incorporating livestock into your permaculture systems, seek out the breeders who now more than ever need your support. And think about how YOU might be able to assist, by becoming a breeder yourself.’

Lisa Delanoue