In practice the conservation of live populations of endangered breeds rarely follows the text book patterns of minimum inbreeding coefficients and model breeding strategies. In the field, in an in situ project the constraints and priorities are shifted as the lines between breeds and populations, and between conservation and utilization become less obvious.
One of the great strengths of in situ conservation projects lie in their own diversity. Unlike cryogenic projects which require a minimum level of technological equipment and knowledge, in situ conservation can be carried out at any level, in any country with the skills and resources already available.
Programmes can be administered by national government agencies, by non government organizations, by private organizations, by cooperative groups of farmers and by private individuals. Examples of all of these currently exist in diverse nations throughout the world and each will be discussed in turn.
The need to conserve endangered species already used in agriculture or, those with a potential for domestication has already been discussed in previous chapters. Generally such projects require large scale conservation efforts involving the conservation of sufficient habitat for the species to continue to thrive and develop in its natural environment.
For example, in Southern India and Sri Lanka the Indian Elephant is an important draught animal, besides having great cultural and religious significance. The captive breeding of elephants is very difficult because the males become extremely aggressive during their breeding period known as the ‘musk’. In order to overcome this females are often turned into the jungle to mate with males in wild or feral herds and are either recaptured or their youngsters are taken when still small enough to train. In this situation the conservation of wildlife areas large enough to support wild herds of elephant are essential if the important domestic stock are to survive.
One of the most successful conservation programmes for the conservation of livestock with a potential for domestication has been the programme to save the South American camelids. The domesticated Llamas and Alpacas are not endangered but between 1950 and 1970 the international population of Vicuna had fallen from an estimated 400,000 to 10,000 in Peru and less than 2,000 elsewhere. In 1968 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) declared the Vicuna to be an ‘endangered’ species. National natural breeding reserves were established in Peru and Chile and all countries involved signed an agreed embargo for trade in Vicuna animals and skins. The population began to recover very quickly and the programme was deemed to have been so successful that by 1981 the Vicuna was moved from the IUCN ‘endangered’ to the ‘vulnerable’ list. Larger reserves were then created and a strategy of planned and sustainable harvesting was initiated.
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In Brazil research is being carried out into the potential use of both alligators and the rodents capibara as animals for domestication. In the case of alligators there is a serious threat of extinction due to poaching of the wild animals for their skins. Trade in alligators skins is therefore currently prohibited, but it is felt that if alligator farming could become a realistic option it might help to conserve the wild population while creating a new agricultural resource.
There are a number of countries in which indigenous stocks have been identified as being endangered through dilution or replacement, but for which an important role has been recognized. Disease resistance or tolerance is particularly important including, for example, that found in the trypanotolerant livestock of West Africa and the heartwater resistant stock of Botswana. Climatically adapted breeds including Criollo cattle in South America adapted to extremes of cold, heat and humidity; the Kuri cattle of Lake Chad whose large hollow horns enable them to swim from one lake island to the next in search of forage; or the seaweed eating sheep of North Ronaldsay island in Scotland are just three examples. Finally there are stocks which are culturally adapted to their specific local markets including the egg producing ducks of Indonesia.
In each of these and many other cases it has been shown that a local breed will disappear due to pressure from replacement breeds or even replacement agricultural systems, even though the native stock has a great deal to offer to national or regional production. In these cases, national or local programmes can be established to carry out further research into the breed, establish improvement programmes, and work with local farmers to re-establish local interest and respect for the breed.
a. Disease Resistance
In West Africa FAO, UNEP and other agencies have been active in helping to establish research centres and open nucleus breeding herds to monitor and improve those breeds of livestock able to survive and reproduce in the trypanosomiasis areas. These populations are obvious candidates for conservation and use because exotic imported stock are not able to survive in this environment. It is important to ensure, however, that all selection and improvement projects are carried out under the same level of disease challenge as the improved stock will encounter when they are reintroduced into the field situation and under sustainable levels of feeding and management.
In Botswana it was noted that a number of exotic breeds were superior when monitoring each component of production, litter size, milk production or growth rate. As a result farmers were encouraged to introduce exotic males to their herds. However, more recent research which included the measurement of fertility, mortality amongst young stock and longevity of the adults, it was found that the Tswana animals had a higher economic return for the farmers. This overall increase in production of the local stock was largely due to their tolerance to high levels of ticks and their resistance to heartwater which is endemic and prevalent throughout the country and had a very detrimental effect on the survival chances of the exotic imports (Setshwaelo, 1989).
As a result of these discoveries the Botswana national livestock programme now includes a herd of 600 Tswana cattle, 1,000 Tswana goats and 500 Tswana sheep for research, conservation and improvement with the top 10% of the males selected for production characteristics under sustainable management systems.
b. Climatic Adaptations
In many regions of the world domestic stocks have developed to extremes in climatic conditions. The Criollo cattle of South America have adapted over 400 years to extremes of heat, humidity and altitude. Some of this adaptation has now been recognized and identified as important by the national governments concerned. In particular EMBRAPA, the National Agricultural Research Institute for Brazil has begun projects to conserve a number of breeds including the now very rare Crioulo Panteneiro or swamp cattle from the Pantanal, which is a large swamp land in the state of Mato Grosso. These cattle are adapted to long periods of flooding and to very high temperatures and humidity. Research has shown that, although these cattle are much smaller, grow less quickly and look less impressive than the Zebu based Nellore which have replaced them, they produce 80 to 90% calves per cow per year, as opposed to only 45% calves per cow per year from the Nellore cattle. The EMBRAPA project involves the maintenance and monitoring of a conservation herd of 200 Panteneiro cattle and incorporates conservation, research and the production of information which they hope to use to raise the awareness of the local farmers in the Pantenal to the value of their local breed (Mariante, 1991).
c. Cultural Adaptation
In Indonesia the development of an industrialized poultry production system for hens has greatly increased total egg production. However, the farmers complained that the higher production required greater expensive imports of feed, vaccines and breeding stock and that fluctuations in production had resulted in the farmers not receiving a steady income from this increased capital investment. Over 80 million tons of Duck eggs are produced in Indonesia each year (Sparframjandet, 1990). It was decided, in the light of the problems with industrialized hens, to look at developing the duck industry using indigenous stocks. Full scale programmes were established to evaluate local breeds of duck. This was followed by selection and crossing trials to produce indigenous ducks based on local strains which could improve the national supply of duck eggs without greatly increasing national imports of breeding stock, specialist feeds or veterinary medicines and which would avoid the need for farmers to make large scale capital investments (Gunawan, 1989).
Mans agricultural activities have been instrumental in the formation of much of the natural environment. In may cases this adaptation of the environment has become associated over centuries with specific wildlife fauna and flora and with particular farming techniques and methods. In some regions the conservation of ancient habitats has incorporated the conservation of farming skills and the ancient breeds with which they are associated. The most famous, and probably most effective of these is the Hungarian programme of Hortobagy National Park in Eastern Hungary where herds of Hungarian Grey Steppe Cattle, Mangalica Pigs, Racka Sheep, Water Buffalo and poultry are carefully conserved in a large scale government programme. This programme seeks to maintain the ancient grazing lands known as the Puszta, along with its wildlife, rich botanical diversity, cultural heritage and traditional livestock breeds. The project has its own state funded budget through the National Park authority and has very close links with university personnel who control the breeding programmes and use the animals in wide ranging research.
In France, the ecologically important area of the Carmargue in the Rhone Delta is designated as a National Park dedicated to the conservation of the natural environment, its plants and wildlife. This conservation also includes the ancient semi-feral populations of Carmargue horses and cattle. These animals are maintained on a feral system with minimal management, recording or intervention in the natural breeding cycle.
Similar projects also exist in the state parks of Florida, in the USA, where the Florida Pineywoods or Cracker Cattle have been associated with the ecology of the area for a very long period, and where their conservation has been incorporated as an integral part of the Park's aims, in conjunction with research support from the state university. This idea has also been used in other European countries with feral or semi-feral populations. For example, the feral herds of Pajuna Cattle and Galician Ponies are maintained, respectively, in the National Park of Andalusia in Spain, and the Peneda Geres National Park in the extreme north west of Portugal.
The conservation of Rove goats in France has taken the management of a rare breed in conjunction with a natural area a stage further and incorporated these rare goats into the management and conservation of the associated forests of the Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon in Provence. The plan is to use the goats in place of expensive mechanical machinery to keep the fire breaks free from scrub.
The Government of Greece has extended its preservation of cultural and historical artifacts and buildings to incorporate a project to ensure the survival of the ponies of Skyros Island. The ancestors of these small, but strong and hardy ponies were the war horses of the Greek Empire and appear in relief in the Elgin marbles. This small national project recognizes the cultural and historical importance of this breed and seeks to conserve the population as part of the Greece's national heritage. Tourists are invited to visit the project and could potentially supply much of the funding needed for its maintenance.
Some of the most successful conservation programmes for live populations have been carried out by national non-governmental organizations. In some cases these are organizations dedicated to the conservation of rare breeds but, in others, rare breed conservation has been a convenient and complementary adjunct to their work in environmental or historical conservation and education.
Many countries now have very active non government organizations involved in the conservation of wildlife and the protection of natural habitats. These organizations are often working in direct opposition to agriculture because they are attempting to protect land from the influences of mankind. There are however, examples where habitat conservation is enhanced by grazing and in such cases it may be possible to incorporate rare breeds into habitat conservation projects.
In particular within Europe the indigenous wild grazing animals, the Aurochs, Bison, Prezwalski Horse, Mouflon and wild goats have long ago been driven to extinction or survive only in tiny pockets or in zoos. In these countries it is therefore reasonable to use rare breeds of domestic or feral livestock as the large grazing animals, although in some areas they may also be endangered. In such areas indigenous wild animals will and should be used to fill the grazing niches on wildlife reserves.
The Nature Conservancy Council in Britain is involved in the conservation of natural wildlife habitats. It has used a number of rare breeds of sheep to graze coastal areas and other grassland meadows whose flora need to be grazed in order to maintain botanical equilibrium, and where there are rare butterflies and other insects who need grazed plants to complete their own life cycles. In particular the small light weight breeds, like the primitive Soay sheep, have proved to be very useful in areas of fragile soil structures which are more susceptible to soil erosion, where small light weight sheep with extensive grazing behaviour and low management requirements are an advantage.
Similarly, the Dutch State Forestry Service, which is responsible for conservation, has recently imported Scottish Highland Cattle to graze their nature reserves established to conserve Dutch wildlife. These areas would have originally been grazed by Aurochs which are now extinct, and later by extensive and hardy semi-feral breeds which, due to the extreme specialization of Dutch agriculture, are also now extinct. Luckily, comparable breeds do still exist in Britain and the importation of hardy Scottish Highland cattle into Holland has been successful. The cattle graze the herbage to the correct level, do not need winter housing or intensive management while still producing a harvest of lean meat.
In Brazil the national genetic resources programme (EMBRAPA-CENARGEN) has become involved in the conservation of the semi-wild/feral horses known as Lavradeiro Criollo from Roraima in Northern Brazil. This population is adapted to sparse grazing conditions and has had no management to control parasites suggesting some levels of resistance or tolerance. In the past 20 years the numbers of these horses has fallen from 2,000 to less than 200 due to hunting and mining activities in the region. EMBRAPA believes that the Lavradeiro Criollo horses could be important in developing the horse breeding programmes in the central savanna region of the country and have therefore established a small nucleus herd. They are also involved in attempting to establish a reserve for the ‘wild’ herd which would combine the conservation of an indigenous stock which has local adaptation, with the conservation of the native grassland (Mariante, 1990).
The case is often made that, if historically interesting or aesthetically pleasing man made artifacts, including buildings, tools and works of art are worthy of preservation, then so too are the domestic breeds man has created through selection. The conservation of these historically important endangered breeds can be associated with a wider plan for national conservation within the state park or museum system or through historical organizations.
The National Trust in the UK, which is concerned with the preservation of historical monuments and buildings has begun to use correct ‘period’ breeds in the fields around many of its properties to add authenticity, assist in the educational work, and help to ensure the survival of these breeds. Some historical parks in the USA have also taken similar steps.
The museum fort of San Miguel at Choi in Uruguay, which belongs to the Uruguay National Army has the last remaining herd of pure bred Criollo cattle in the country and an important flock of Criollo sheep. Through the rest of Uruguay the Criollo has been driven to extinction through cross breeding and dilution. The fort herd is maintained as part of an excellent exhibition of Gaucho history and Uruguayan fortress life.
Many breeds have developed in association with specific cultural groups within countries and many have particular economic, artistic or religious significance and value to those people. Utah State University in the USA has been involved in helping the Navajo Indians to rescue all that is left of their ancient breed of sheep. This population was light-boned with clean legs and face and was well adapted to the extremes of heat and cold on the Navajo reservation. The sheep survived with little or no management and produced a very characteristic fleece with a dense fine undercoat with long coarse hair growing through it. The fleece was used by the Indians to produce beautiful rugs in traditional patterns which they can easily sell. The rugs are of great cultural importance to the Navajo people and have good financial potential to a community with an otherwise very low income. Sadly, the Navajo-Churro sheep which produced the fleeces needed for rug making have all but disappeared after many years of ‘upgrading’ to improve meat production. Utah State University has been active in helping to locate the last pockets of the breed, move rams between groups, multiply numbers and supply the weaving families with the wool they need. Ultimately the plan is to replenish the flocks of the weaving families with true Navajo-Churro sheep (McNeal, 1970).
In India the religious importance of the cow and cultural taboos with respect to the slaughter of cattle has resulted in the development of local organizations, called Gupsala, which provide a welfare service for old, sick and injured cows. These Gupsala are locally funded and have often acquired reasonably large farms which have been donated over a long period of time. At least one of these centres in Haryana state has become involved in the conservation of the local Hariana cattle. They have a herd of 100 to 200 cows and are able to monitor milk production and select superior animals to be the mothers of bulls. They have established a breeding programme in association with the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources in Karnal, and are helping to produce pure bred cows and bulls to be sold back to the farmers.
Private organizations involved in rare breed conservation fall into four major categories. First, are livestock breeding companies who need genetic variation as their primary resource. These are mostly poultry and pig improvement companies. Second, are organizations which are involved in conservation and research including universities. Third are the organizations involved in breed conservation, tourism and education such as the farm parks, museums and cultural or historical centres. Finally there are companies whose work is not related directly to genetic conservation but which have found a role for rare breeds and are therefore active in their conservation.
In the most developed of the livestock industries, and particularly in the poultry industry, there are a few breeding companies who hold the bulk of the genetic material which make up the production stocks. Three primary breeders currently provide most of the world's turkey breeding stock and one has over half the world's market. There are only nine world class primary breeders of chicken broilers and nine primary breeders of egg layers supplying most of the industrial sector throughout the world. It may be further speculated that many of the grandparent lines of these companies have identical or similar origin. The result is a high level of genetic uniformity in the industrial stocks world wide.
The industrial poultry companies are dependent upon new genetic variation in order that their improvement programmes continue. Intensive selection is already resulting in a situation where they have homozygous birds with maximum genetic production for the genes at their disposal. The companies are very competitive and do not exchange many ideas or genetic stocks, although many have ‘gene banks’. However, they aim to plan their breeding programmes ten years in advance and hope to be self sufficient in genetic material for that period. Meanwhile, they are continuing to actively seek additional genetic resources outside the company, although as their influence on the industry increases and as the production differential between the landraces and the industrial stocks widens these will be increasingly difficult to find.
As genetic engineering options develop and become practically available, many breeding companies may wish to consider single gene transfers from relatively unselected landrace stocks provided these stocks still survive. For this reason the World's Poultry Science Association (WPSA) has urged FAO to vigourously pursue means of preserving poultry genetic resources (FAO, 1989b).
Several commercial swine companies are multinational, supplying an increasing proportion of breeding stock to the industry. They are currently seeking genetic material from around the world and do not appear to hold very large genetic reserves. These companies may also need the genetic variation found in the extensive landrace populations and it is in their interests that these populations do in fact survive.
The use of rare breeds in research has been sporadic and largely ineffective in ensuring the survival of many breeds. There are a number of examples where university or research institutes have inadvertently slaughtered the last group of animals in a breed, once they have finished their research, including the last herd of Lincolnshire Curley Coat pigs in Britain, and the last large flock of Navajo-Churro sheep in the USA. There are obvious exceptions to the trend. Research has been able to identify immediate uses for some breeds, for example, the prolific Finnish Landrace sheep and the disease resistant cattle of Africa.
There is a real case for the involvement of universities in rare breed conservation in all countries, but particularly in areas where there is large scale upgrading or replacement of breeds underway. In these areas universities and research institutions should be involved in maintaining pure bred populations of indigenous breeds as control populations and for research. Universities involved in medical or veterinary research could also be encouraged to use rare breeds where livestock are needed. For example, the cattle supplying blood for human vaccines could be rare breeds in conservation herds.
a. Breeds for Conservation and Use
In terms of maintaining live populations of rare breeds, universities and research institutes have had variable success. Florida and Louisiana state universities in the USA have both been involved in the research of the Gulf Coast Native sheep which are well adapted to the heat and humidity of the region and are resistant to the predominant gut parasites. Over the past 50 years the sheep industry in the South Eastern states has all but disappeared due to economic and market changes. Today almost all that remains of the Gulf Coast sheep populations is held in the two university flocks.
The principal conservation and improvement herds of Sahiwal cattle in India is maintained by the National Dairy Research Institute at Karnal and there is an important Murrah Buffalo breeding project at Haryana Agricultural University in Hissar, India, where management, nutrition, veterinary care, selection and improvement is being carried out to provide information and superior males for use by the local farmers.
b. Rare Breeds in Physiological Research
Many veterinary and medical research and production companies require the use of farm animal hosts. One drug research company in the USA has entered into a contract with a local rare cattle breeder, to supply them with cattle blood for research. The owner is able to maintain the herd at the low level of veterinary input which the company requires and the company is able to provide the owner with financial support. Although only a pilot scheme, this is a possible source of funding for more substantial rare breed conservation programmes in the future.
c. Human Research and Treatment
Other organizations involved in research that have used rare breeds in some small pilot schemes are those concerned with human animal interaction. Research in social psychology and medical research has revealed the importance of peoples’ interaction with animals. In particular, work with mentally disturbed patients has suggested social and behavioural benefits. In a number of cases rare breeds are being incorporated into state prisons and institutes for the mentally disturbed and mentally ill. Suffolk Borstal Prison Farm for young offenders in the UK, has made the interaction between individual boys and Suffolk Punch horses a major feature of their rehabilitation programme. Green Chimneys Farm School in New York has also included a rare breeds programme with their residential centre for maladjusted juveniles and Stocken Prison Farm in the UK has a herd of White Park Cattle for which the inmates are responsible. All of these programmes help to establish stable relationships between inmates and the animals with which they work, a sense of achievement and pride, and enables the inmates to learn new skills while helping to conserve a breed. Farms associated with such institutions can also help in supplying food for the inmates and help to make the hospital or prison partially self sufficient.
The concept of a Farm Park, as a breeding centre for rare breeds and tourist and education resource, was initiated at the Cotswold Farm Park in the UK in 1970. It is a privately owned collection of British rare breeds in active breeding units. Small groups of each breed are exhibited to the public in an attractive setting, and visitors pay a fee to enter the exhibition area. The primary goal of the Park was originally to be a breeding centre. Public access was perceived as a means of funding the project and was promoted via the historical, cultural and aesthetic interest of the breeds. This concept has been very successful. The centre has never received outside financial support and yet has been able to maintain populations of over 300 rare breed ewes, 100 cattle, 30 pigs, 50 goats and 15 equines entirely supported by the 100,000 visitors to the Park each season. However, it has had, in conjunction with the other farm parks which now exist, an even more important consequence for the whole concept of rare breed conservation in Britain. Farm Parks have formed a focus for the press and television and are popular visitor centres for school groups, holiday makers and tourists.
In many countries the idea of museums, libraries and schools filled with static exhibits and information are being replaced. There is a growing interest in ‘living’ history, and interactive learning. Many children, particularly from industrialized countries are remote from primary food production and have little or no opportunity to interact with animals. In the USA the interactive experience of ‘Living History’ with historical settings brought back to life with costumed interpreters who practice their skills in front of the public, has proved very popular and effective. This is now being extended to include ‘period’ livestock and the issues of livestock breeding, agricultural change and conservation which can all be addressed using live animals as teaching tools.
These centres act primarily to draw attention to the changing face of agriculture and to the loss of historical breeds and are not large scale breeding centres. However, they help to raise interest and awareness of indigenous stocks and are effective teaching tools.
The idea of Farm Parks, Living History Museums and Exhibition Farms in nations where most people still have close links to the land, seems unlikely to succeed. However, tourism now represents 12% of the Worlds GNP and is a very important source of foreign currency in many countries (Mannion, 1991). In countries with a tourist industry, there is a real possibility of linking the idea of living history, incorporating traditional skills, breeds and plant crop varieties into an exhibition. This could be mounted alongside a parallel demonstration of modern techniques, varieties and breeds. Such an exhibition could help visitors to understand and better appreciate the culture of the country they were visiting, while supporting the indigenous agriculture and its breeds. It could also act as a valuable information, training and teaching resource for local people, who could see the advantages and disadvantages of the old and the new alongside one another.
The issue of conservation is now an internationally important one. Some commercial companies have therefore become interested and involved in company promotion using rare breeds. Perhaps the most dramatic promotional use of rare breeds is the Budweiser Company's use of Clydesdale horses in the USA. Begun in 1933 at the end of prohibition, this advertising campaign using Clydesdale Horses became very popular and successful. However, unlike many other campaigns it became an integral part of the company's image. Budweiser are now leading breeders of Clydesdales and have been very instrumental in the survival of the breed both in the USA, Canada and Britain. This alliance has therefore been successful for both the company involved and the breed with which it chooses to associate.
English China Clays have found an essential role for a rare breed in their industry. The company managed to develop grasses that would colonize china clay spoil heaps but the grass species were slow growing and did not develop a strong enough root system to prevent rapid erosion. A suitable grazing animal was needed to strengthen the root structure while not destroying the fragile surface. Primitive Soay sheep were found to be ideal. They are light weight and small, so that they do not damage the surface soil structure. They also have the correct grazing pattern to help to establish the grasses and encourage the development of a stable green cover, which is needed to satisfy environmental concerns over rehabilitation of the unsightly industrial spoil heaps.
Local indigenous and adapted stocks are disappearing by dilution and replacement. Farmers and livestock breeders throughout the world are aware of the problem. Often they are also aware that something of great local value is being lost but that as individuals they cannot swim against the tide even if they would like to see more pride in, and use made of, their own local stocks.
There are many examples of individual farmers or groups of farmers who have continued to maintain and breed the last herd of a particular type or breed of livestock because they believed that they had something to offer. In many cases such farmers have ensured the survival of that breed until its value has been recognized.
In the Southern Brazilian State of Santa Catarina a strain of cattle known as the Crioulo Lageano has developed over the past 300 years, adapted to the rocky acid soils, high altitude and cold winters. They are large animals with magnificent long horns and like many Criollo cattle populations, occur in a wide range of colours and patterns. During the past 40 years the breed has been gradually replaced by cross breeding with imported Indian and European breeds. Thirty years ago Mr Antonio Camargo decided to gather together good examples of the breed from throughout the region and continues to breed them on the unimproved pastures of his farm. He maintains some 150 cows and 10–15 bulls. He valued the breed for its hardiness in the winter, its ability to do well without feeding supplements and the longevity of the cows who continued to produce calves every year for many years.
The animal genetic resources programme of the Brazilian Agriculture Corporation (EMBRAPACENARGEN) has now recognized that this is an important Brazilian breed and are working with Mr Camargo and the Federal University of Santa Catarina to evaluate the breed and develop a long term conservation strategy. They are also undertaking cross breeding trials whose initial results have shown the Crioulo Lageano to have an immediate commercial use, particularly in areas of adverse climatic conditions. This is linked to their ability to withstand the cold winters but may also be linked to differences in the forage and grazing behaviour as compared to the exotic cross breeds in an extensive management system.
The Maharaj Bir Singh maintains an important private animal breeding and agricultural research farm in the Hissar district of India. First established in the early years of this century by his late holiness Sri Satguru Pratap Singh ji, the farm has breeding herds of 300 Sahiwal and 300 Hariana cattle. All the cows are individually identified and excellent records maintained on their breeding, health and production. The current Maharaj believes that these two local breeds have many adaptive characteristics which make them ideal for the local farmers. In particular the exotic European crosses which have become widespread in the past thirty years do generally produce more milk in a single lactation in the first cross. However, their survival rates are considerably lower than the local breeds due to their failure to conceive repeatedly on the very low input diets available, their relatively high susceptibility to prevalent parasites and diseases and their intolerance of the humidity and heat. In addition the male cross bred calves are far less valuable as draught oxen than the local breeds because they will not work in the heat of day and are known to be slow and lazy. In a country where cattle are not slaughtered for meat, this inability to make use of the male calves is a serious financial consideration. Overall, despite their lower milk yield, the economic output of the Hariana or Sahiwal cows is not in fact inferior to the exotics or their crosses.
Through a programme of recording and selection the Maharaj hopes to be able to be instrumental in ensuring the survival of the Hariana and Sahiwal breeds while making superior animals available to local farmers wishing to return to these traditional breeds. He is now working with a number of university and research farm projects coordinated through the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources in Karnal.
The American Mulefoot Hog was widespread in the central region of the USA in the first half of this century. They were a hardy outdoor breed with the normal cloven hooves of a pig fused into a single toe (syndactyl). They were also reputed to be resistant to a number of pig diseases prevalent at the time. By the 1960's vaccines and treatments were available for most pig diseases and the numbers of Mulefoot Hogs declined. By 1985 only one herd remained belonging to a Mr R.M. Holliday in Missouri, USA. He continued to maintain the breed because he believed it had a unique characteristic of hardiness, and because of his own family tradition. Both his father and grandfather had reared this breed of pig on the small river islands in that part of the Mississippi river from which they would harvest the young pigs. Today, as new resistant strains of once controllable diseases begin to emerge there is some renewed interest in the American Mulefoot Hogs to re-evaluate the disease resistance claims. There is also interest in examining the foot structure of the breed to see if it might prevent lameness in commercial pigs reared on concrete floors or slats. However, if it hadn't been for the determination of this one farmer to keep this breed going, these new research opportunities would not be available.
In each of these and many other possible examples the value placed by individual farmers on their breeds has enabled unfashionable or temporarily uneconomic breeds to survive untill their potential value could be recognized. This highlights how important it is to seek information about breeds from farmers and to use farmers as a central part of conservation strategy.
The most powerful and stable from of live animals conservation programmes currently in operation are those which involve large numbers of small privately owned units. This system has two advantages; firstly it tends to result in the maintenance of very high effective population size (Ne) due to there being a large number of relatively small units each with at least one male; and secondly, it requires a very large number of decisions for significant changes to occur. Thus selection pressures are likely to be ineffective because they are not generally uniform between units, and in order for the programme to fail completely many individuals must withdraw their support.
The use of individual private flocks and herds co-ordinated by organizations committed to rare breed conservation, offers a powerful and cost effective means of rare breed conservation. It makes use of the skills and knowledge of farmers familiar with breeds, and keeps those breeds interacting and developing in the same environment to which they are adapted. Financial assistance, advice and practical help can be given to farmers in a number of ways through cultural, historical or agricultural organizations (Henson, 1989).
Programmes have been designed to use local farmers in vegetable and landrace crop plant conservation programmes in different parts of the world (Altieri, 1989; Fowler, 1990). These ideas of farmers as custodians of genetic resources at a village level can be used equally well for farmers involved in livestock programmes and through production linked subsidies the income of farmers involved in these programmes could be equal to those involved with replacement breeds. Conservation programmes should hold the same cultural and social value and the same sense of pride and responsibility as breed replacement and improvement programmes. They should be used as control herds to monitor the advantages of the imported stocks. As control herds they should have parallel opportunities to improve husbandry where this can be sustained in the long term economy of the country.
Such conservation projects can be co-ordinated through independent organizations where this is appropriate, or through universities or state agricultural agencies. It may be internationally, regionally or state funded through internal agencies or aid agencies. Ideally however, each aid project designed to replace or upgrade indigenous stocks with exotics should have a budget component to establish a control programme to conserve the indigenous strain in the same conditions.
In Jiangsu Province of China, a conservation area was established in 1985 to conserve the prolific Hu sheep. This area is in the main loquat and orange growing district and the sheep are traditionally kept indoors throughout the year with fodder carried to them. Their manure is then used to fertilize the fruit trees. The Hu sheep are very prolific and early maturing and will give birth to twins or triplets twice a year. It was realized that the pure Hu sheep were being gradually diluted and replaced by cross breeding and a conservation programme based on the local farmers was established. Dongsan township in Wu Country was designated as the conservation area and a special conservation law was passed prohibiting any farmer in this region from owning any other type of sheep. Farmers in the region were also required to maintain their flocks in the prescribed and traditional way, keep good pedigree and production records and replace all cull animals with purebred young stock. The project has 200 sheep in the core conservation area with some 10,000 Hu and Hu type sheep in a surrounding buffer zone. The total sheep project costs the government in the region of 10,000 yuan (ie, 1 yuan per sheep). The farmer also benefit from the sale of meat, pelts and wool and from the traditional use of the sheep manure on their fruit trees (Ruihe, 1990).
The Chakranagar region of Uttar Pradesh in India is a similar isolated area with a distinctive locally adapted breed, the Jamunapari goat. In this country it would not be possible to pass local laws insisting that farmers continue to keep the local breed but farmers can still be used as the central core of a conservation programme.
The Chakranagar is bordered by a number of rivers and is a very arid and sandy area. The goats are a large dairy breed with a good meat carcas and are able to survive and thrive in these barren conditions. As new roads and bridges are built into the area there has been an increase influx of goats of other breeds and the numbers of purebred Jamunapari goats has declined.
The Central Institute for Research on Goats in Makhdoom has established a research and development herd of Jamunapari goats but has also embarked upon a very important village based conservation and improvement programme. They have begun by locating all the farmers in Chakranagar region with more than three Jamunapari goats. By December 1990 it was intended that each farmer would have been visited and data collected on the number, age, sex, size and colour of all his goats. The second phase of the programme involved selecting a number of villages and families within those villages for more detailed study. Their herds would be used to measure growth rate and milk yield for one year. This would involve research agents living in the villages to co-ordinate the taking of regular and comparable measurements. In addition a full characterization of the conditions in the field, availability of food and management would also be made. Finally the programme would develop a progeny testing and improvement programme using the research farm herd as a nucleus and the village herds for test matings and data collection. In this way the farmers would be involved in all aspects of the conservation, pure breeding and development of their breed. The most impressive aspect of this programme is the commitment and enthusiasm of the village farmers involved in the project. Researchers have found that they are welcomed and encouraged to admire and work with the local goats. Farmers were also happy to assist with milk recording and other breed monitoring in exchange for veterinary and management advice with respect to shelters, parasite and disease control. The future stages of progeny testing and breed improvement using the village herds has, therefore, a good chance of success, and if that succeeds the breed will survive (Bhattacharya, 1990).
A similar project involving the co-operating of farmers through agricultural extension workers exists in Botswana. The farmers form co-operatives in order to share dipping facilities for the control of ticks and other ecto-parasites. They also work together to market their meat to the meat company, and they share the use of stud males of both sheep and goats. In one such cooperative outside the capital, Gaborone, a group of about 100 farmers have decided they do not wish to use imported Dorpa rams or Boer goats to cross with their stock but would prefer to use only local Tswana animals which are resistant to heartwater and more tolerant of heavy tick burdens. They are also interested in improving their stock and are therefore willing to work with the local research scientists to measure the production of their animals, use selected males and keep good records in exchange for chemicals to control ecto-parasites. This is an excellent example of how village based farmers can form the very inexpensive core of a conservation/improvement programme that would be prohibitively expensive if it were to be established as a project on a special conservation or research farm.
Probably the single most important feature of all these village and farmer based projects are the co-ordinators. In order for any conservation project of this type to be successful the co-ordinator must be enthusiastic about the project and must be familiar with the breed. He or she must have respect for the farmers and be in regular contact with them. In situations where women are the principal carers for the livestock the co-ordinators should also be a women. The co-ordinator must understand and be able to explain the conservation theory and practice and must be involved in the collection of data and in making information about the progress of the project available to the participating farmers. He or she should be involved in the distribution of financial support if it exists and must be honourable and trusted by the farmers. Working in a village situation requires the mutual respect and trust of both scientists and farmers. It is most important that a conservation project co-ordinator cares that the project will succeed.
There are a number of different ways of co-ordinating farmer breeders, but co-ordination of some kind is essential if conservation programmes are going to be successful for any length of time.
a. Breed Associations
Breed associations are groups of individual farmers who maintain and produce the same pure breed. They act as a pedigree registration and certification service to their members and as a commercially based breed promotion and marketing service. In normal circumstances they seek to ‘improve’ their stock by encouraging selective breeding. The combination of the two factors of breed improvement and breed promotion do, therefore, appear to be in direct opposition to the concept of the conservation of genetic variation. However, provided every breed has an active association and efforts are made to keep breeds separate they do act in combination to conserve overall variation
Breed associations for minor breeds are able to keep breeders in touch with each other; keep and make available pedigree information essential to prevent serious inbreeding; and help to promote the breed. Active associations are very important in ensuring that a breed can survive, but they are dependent upon member contributions, and in the case of small associations are normally member run. It, therefore, often happens that a very rare breed that really needs a breed association cannot sustain one. In this situation, network organizations like the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) in the UK, the American Minor Breeds Conservancy (AMBC) in the USA and EMBRAPA in Brazil, have been very effective in providing assistance with basic secretarial, communication and registration services until members are able to sustain their own breed organizations (Henson, 1987).
In Brazil one of the most important Crioulo breeds of cattle, the Caracu owes much of its current revival to the formations of an active breed association. The Caracu was systematically replaced by exotic imported Indian and European breeds although a conservation herd was established in the 1950's. Unfortunately the conservation herd suffered from a lack of directional selection to maintain the breeds production characteristics. However, there were a number of private herds which survived and continued to maintain good quality stock. These herds were re-evaluated in the 1980's and a number of complementary articles written. As a result a breed association was formed and the breed began to promote and market the Caracu. This has been so successful that the Caracu may soon no longer be considered to be a rare breed (Alba, 1986).
An association for the conservation of the Panteneiro horse has also been set up by the breeders who fear the detrimental affects of widespread crossing with breeds not adapted to the extremes of humidity and heat in the Pantenal region of Brazil.
A buffalo breed association has also been founded in Brazil to promote the use of buffalo for meat production in the humid swampy regions. This association subdivides its register into the various breeds of buffalo available in the country and is very active in promoting the use of buffalo as an agricultural species in Brazil.
In India an association of larger herds of Sahiwal cattle has been important in establishing the exchange of progeny tested bulls and the sharing of breed information.
These examples highlight the power of groups of farmers working together to promote and market a breed. It does not make the animals any more productive or efficient but it does ensure that other farmers know what the breed really has to offer and what it can produce.
b. Conservation Networks
Probably the best known of the non-government funded organizations in the field of rare breed conservation is the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) in the UK, whose primary activity is as a grassroots network organization for individual breeder members. The RBST seeks and receives financial support from the public, foundations, corporations and companies specifically for the work of rare breed conservation. Its primary task is to co-ordinate, advise and help individual farmer members who own and breed rare breeds of livestock.
To assist with this the RBST maintains a breed register and data bank, runs workshops and training sessions and arranges an annual sale at which over 1,000 breeding animals change hands each year. In addition the RBST has a large semen bank held in conjunction with the Milk Marketing Board. This incorporates both a long term store and working store which enable individual breeders to be involved in cattle breed conservation without needing to own a bull. The RBST also encourages the characterization of and research into breeds through universities and other research organizations.
The RBST has become directly involved with ownership and management of some animals including the principal flock of North Ronaldsay sheep. This is a small naturally short tailed breed found only on the Orkney island of North Ronaldsay where it has adapted, over some hundred years, to exist on a diet of the seaweed Laminaria. In 1970 the entire population were situated outside the sea wall on the beach of the island of North Ronaldsay in the North Sea. In 1973 a representative of the working party which was later to become the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, purchased the small island of Linga Holm and moved a group of 150 sheep and established a second sanctuary for the breed with the same environmental conditions and food supply as on the parent island. Today the RBST flock is gathered once a year, the fleeces are shorn and the lambs harvested. There have been a number of research projects carried out on various aspects of the breed's behaviour and physiology. It is hoped that by maintaining this second site, the breed, with its genetic adaptation to a seaweed diet, will survive, even if a disease outbreak or oil spill threatens one or other of the flocks. There are now a number of trials using North Ronaldsay ewes on other isolated islands, where they are rearing cross bred lambs with reasonable carcasses on a seaweed diet.
c. Grant Aid
In extreme cases where the survival of a breed has been seriously threatened by financial pressure on farmers from more commercially successful alternative breeds, the use of subsidies has been very effective. Subsidies can be paid based on a number of different systems; per capita, male only or production.
Payments made on a per capita system, has tended to encourage farmers to overstock their land. It has also been paid regardless of the quality of husbandry and tends to encourage ‘bad’ farmers to keep rare breeds and live off the subsidy while ‘good’ farmers move over to the new breeds and farming systems.
The male only system used in Britain pays a subsidy for pure bred males of specific blood lines kept at stud and has helped where the level of production of the rare breed is not very much lower than commercial breeds. In this situation a relatively small financial grant to help with the cost of keeping a male makes up the financial difference between the rare and the commercial replacement breed and is particularly effective in countering the effects of indiscriminate crossing with AI on the grounds of convenience.
Production linked subsidies are the most controlled and most effective system. In this case the subsidy is linked to the real production potential of the animals. The amount of the subsidy is determined by evaluating the production under normal management of the rare breed, and comparing it to the potential production of the replacement breed in the same management system. The farmer is then paid a subsidy equivalent to the difference. Under this system it is essential that the farmer continues to farm his animals well in order to make the maximum use of his livestock, land and other resources. This ensures that good farmers will still be attracted to the scheme and will continue to manage the rare breed to their maximum potential (Henson, 1986; Henson, 1989).
This system has been implemented in Canada where the regional government of the province of Quebec has instituted a system of paying a dollar subsidy to farmers rearing pure breed Canadienne cattle. The subsidy is based on the relative production for a Canadienne as compared to a black and white Holstein cross calf. Similarly, the RBST in the UK pays a headage grant for every pure bred Shetland calf born on the Shetland Islands, calculated from the difference between the market value of a pure bred calf and that of a cross bred calf.
In Sweden farmers are paid an annual subsidy to take their cows into the mountains to graze the traditional ‘chalets’ or high pastures. This grant is paid to maintain the natural flora of the region. This programme has now been extended to incorporate the cows of traditional Swedish breeds, so that a farmer is paid 300 Swedish krona for a cross bred cow and 500 Swedish krona (approximately 75 US dollars) for an indigenous cow grazed on the chalet. Similar grants are available for indigenous goats and sheep (Matzon, 1986).
These various systems of subsidy have been direct and effective methods of conservation and have been very cost effective in financial terms. Paying the difference between the production level under good management of the rare breed and that of the replacement is sufficient to induce a farmer not to change over breeds. However, it is a small cost in comparison to that of establishing independent conservation programmes.
In conclusion, the practical methods of conserving rare breeds in live animal programmes are very widespread and diverse. Not all of these methods transfer easily to all regions of the world due largely to competition for resources from agriculture and from the indigenous and endangered wildlife species. However, there is a real opportunity for live animal conservation programmes associated with university research, bio-medical and veterinary research and production and through a system of farmer subsidies maintained in parallel with programmes to introduce replacement breeds.
The time when living populations of rare indigenous breeds are no longer needed because they can all be satisfactorily stored in cryogenic banks has not yet arrived, if indeed it ever will. In the meantime breeds are best maintained in their own environment, tended by those who know and understand them. The need to preserve genetic variation in domestic livestock has been recognized for many years and it is now extremely urgent in a rapidly changing world. Farmers must be fired with enthusiasm to preserve the breeds evolved and shaped by their ancestors but that fire needs monetary fuel. It must be quickly and wisely applied before the fire is extinguished by the need for immediate survival rather than long term conservation.