ILLINOIS’ ONLY RARE BREEDS LIVESTOCK & POULTRY SHOW MAY 18TH
CAMPTON HILLS, IL: Garfield Farm Museum will hold its 28th Annual Rare Breeds Livestock & Poultry Show and Sale on Sunday May 18th from 11am – 4pm. The only show of its type held in Illinois, looks at the loss of genetic diversity amongst domestic animals that humans have depended upon for food, fiber, and work for hundreds of years. For many visitors to the show it is the first and perhaps last time in their lives they might ever see some of these highly endangered breeds.
Not only has the mass market solution for a one size fits all approach to breeding impacted the historic diversity of all domesticated animals, the rare breed enthusiast is just as endangered. The economic downturn, the increase price of feed because of ethanol demand, the attempts to apply much needed health standards for mass production of livestock to small operations, and the consolidation of farming has put pressure on the rare breed owners.
Communities once made up of hundreds of farms meant more different preferences for types of livestock and poultry as well as farming and breeding methods. As farms have consolidated to be able to support just one family, fewer different methods are used. Thus today, to see a herd of milking Shorthorn or Brown Swiss dairy cattle is very unusual as the Holstein (black and white cows) are preferred for maximum milk production
Today because such large herds or flocks of animals are maintained on just one farm operation, health standards must be strictly enforced or an entire herd could sicken or die. Sheer size means greater restrictions as larger sums of money are involved. Yet necessary regulation to protect such large investments do not work economically for very small operations. Several head of animals on a small operation may not need excessive health exams or tracking of where each animal has been as an owner more readily can spot issues with fewer animals. Several visits by the veterinarian beyond an annual inspection or when illness is present can be a major economic burden.
Ironically, the very genetic resources found in these rare breeds that might be just the needed genetics for disease resistance, higher yield, better birthing, etc. in the most popular breeds of today, are undervalued and subject to scarcity beyond just their low population numbers. This begs the question as to which is rarer, the breed or the breeder?
Skill sets are also becoming rare as well. Linda Franklin who has volunteered since the 1980s at Garfield Farm Museum will be returning to demonstrate dog sheep herding. With the change in the U.S. market for sheep, herding sheep is now more often a hobby to keep one’s herd dog on its toes. The centuries of breeding to produce animal herding or animal guardian dogs are of less immediate economic value. To start with, the mass market wool production has moved out of America and most U.S. sheep production is now to produce meat. Franklin’s sheep herding Belgian Tervuren dogs are a marvel to watch as human and canine work together to gather the animals together that once roamed New England hillside farms to western open range operations.
The decline of the wool market has meant that fewer individuals like Loren Marceau can make a living shearing sheep. Often than not, it is the spinning, knitting, and weaving enthusiasts that seek out the many wool varieties the rare sheep breeds have. With sheep being raised for meat, there is less need for shearing as the sheep go to market before shearing is needed. Thus there is less demand for the challenging art of sheep shearing. Marceau has sheared for many years at the Rare Breeds Show and demonstrates a well-honed skill. He is one of the few shearers in Northern Illinois and thus is in great demand.
Some the animals that expected at the show include Large Black Hog and modern Berkshire pigs, Milking Devon oxen, Milking Shorthorn and Dutch Belted cows and calves, Icelandic, Montadale, Black Belly Barbados, Shetland, Kahtadin, Jacob, and Merino sheep, and an old type Morgan horse and Dales pony. Chickens will be represented by Standard Frizzle Cochin, Serama, Large White Chantecler, Black, White and Auburn Javas, Icelandic, and White Wyandotte chickens, Narragansett, Blue Slate and Black Spanish turkeys, Pilgrim, American Buff, African, Sebastopol & Chinese Buff geese, Muscovy Ducks, Silver Fox, Rhinelander, French Angora, Mini Rex, English Lop, and American Tan rabbits, and Nubian, Nigerian Dwarf Dairy, Myotonic or Fainting goats. To protect all this livestock Canaan, Anatolian Shepherd and Australian Cattle dogs and even a llama will be on hand.
Practicality aside, these rare breeds should be saved for the same reason as any other rare animal. These barn yard critters may not be as glamorous as a panda or eagle, but are very much part of our environment and heritage. Many of these animals were on a farm when our forefathers were. If one were to save objects from the past to preserve a glimpse of the past, then heritage livestock should be saved to help complete the picture.
Breeders are invited to exhibit their animals at the museum with a chance to meet other breeders and prospective buyers. Grandma's Farm Fresh Eggs will sell chicken, turkey, duck, & goose eggs, as others offer handcrafted soaps, drop spindles, yarns, and various fiber products. In addition to seeing the animals, visitors can tour the 1846 teamster inn, watch demonstrations of sheep shearing, ox driving, wool spinning, or enjoy refreshments from Inglenook Pantry. There is a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children 12 years and younger.
Garfield Farm Museum is five miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Route 38 on Garfield Road. The 375 acre museum is supported by donations and is the only surviving historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm museum. For information call 630-584-8485 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.