Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Developing your Own Landrace Livestock

This post was inspired by Frank and Ferns post of December 15th, 2014

What is a landrace?

A landrace is a local variety of a domesticated plant or animal species which has developed  adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives.  Landrace populations are often variable in appearance, but they can be identified by their appearance and have a certain genetic similarity.

I have heard the term landrace used in both gardening and livestock. It is something we overlook as we raise our own animals and  plants. I felt it is something we should look into as we all plan for the future.

When I raised purebred Shorthorn cattle I originally had to buy my breeding stock. I made selections on the type of cattle that would work on my farm with its harsh winters and dry summers. I wanted easy keeping cattle that needed a lower amount of pasture and winter feed to get by. They had to have good feet and the cows had to have small tidy udders with good teat placement. They had to be fertile and breed  and settle in calf quickly as I had a 60 day calving season that worked for our commercial cattle. It was a learning experience. I had a lot of animals that fit the conformation criteria and looked great when  got them but then failed at either my fertility requirement or my feed conversion requirement.

I selected and continued my pursuit of top animals and I also culled hard, I found much harder than a lot of purebred breeders. It seemed that because Registered stock costs more there is a tendency to give them more chances to produce or perform than ordinary commercial crossbred cattle.  If a commercial cow does not produce a calf, milk well and wean a well grown calf, is shy breeding or has bad feet she is culled. I saw breeders pay a lot of money for top  stock and then when they didn't milk well or had bad feet they were given more chances, or had their feet trimmed...always some excuse.

I retained my commercial attitude, these cattle had to work for me under my management and range conditions. I kept heifer calves from the best of my selected purebreds only if they were working out under our commercial management. The school of hard knocks you might say.

When I started selling my  best purebreds I was pleased with the peoples reaction to having them. They all said they were really easy keeping and never needed their feet trimmed. They milked well even though their udders looked small and they were quiet and gentle. These were all things my purebreds had been selected for, I had developed my own strain of landrace cattle. They worked and had been developed for a specific area of the country under hard selection criteria. It had taken almost 10 years to reach this level.

Now what has this got to do with your homestead and preparedness plans you ask?  Well look at your management system, do you have lots of pasture and forage, can you raise your own grain, do you have a long winter to feed animals through? Do you have barns or are the animals gong to be outside for the most part. All these things add up to your animal husbandry climate...your region that your animals have to work in.

Evaluate what your animals will have to do to get by and then start selecting the best ones. Ones that perform for you. The animals that come off pasture thin, cull, keep the fattest ones who have done well on limited inputs. Cull for disposition, if an animal is aggressive or nervous cull it. Quiet animals not only are easier to handle but convert feed better.

If your raising rabbits, select the ones that do the best with fewer pellets and purchased grain inputs, keep records of a does babies and how they feed out on grass, if a doe kindles a set of kits that does well on grass then she is the one to keep daughters from. The good thing about this approach is you can eat the failures. It is not a loss of food and you gain in having small or large stock that fits your farm, region and management.

With goats select the does that produce the most milk on the least grain. The ones that are in the best flesh from the pasture they are on. Cull the ones that are thinner and seem to need more care. Pay attention to parasite infestations, some animals have a more natural resistance to worms and the like. Paying attention to your animals is good for them and you, developing individuals that work well in your situation will pay off in spades as time goes on.

When selecting breeding males watch the management of the breeder you are getting them from. If they use a lot of high power commercially prepared feeds the stud stock may have difficulty adjusting to your regimen of less is more. Often the bigger  prime stud stock require higher levels of grain and nutrition than smaller animals.

When selecting the breeds of animals you want look into the history of the breed. The old breeds that have fallen out of favor with modern industrial agriculture have much to offer modern homesteaders and people who want to be prepared. It will take time but with perseverance and determination and a good eye for detail you can breed and develop your own landrace animals that will work for you!

Ralph and I look forward to selecting good animals to begin with and only time will tell how 'our' landrace critters will look. It is a challenge we look forward go out there and get planning!

1 comment:

  1. Good, thought provoking article, Fiona. If we start out with good, healthy, productive animals to begin with, that's half the work. Of course, you can't always tell who you are getting to begin with, but learning along the way can increase the success of future acquisitions. I agree with your culling advice, even though you may have to end up culling an animal you really like for some reason. Thank you for the information.