While the heritage breeds overcome the shortfalls of the Cornish-Rock Cross (CRX) and similar modern hybrids, they come with their own drawbacks. They do not approach the rapid growth rate, low feed conversion rates, and low production costs of the CRX, but there is a lack of information as to which breed or breeds might serve as a potential alternative for niche markets. Thus, our proposed solution was to raise a variety of heritage breed chickens on pasture, to gain a sort of foothold regarding expected growth considerations and production costs.
The question of why one ought to consider raising heritage meat chickens can be approached, I think, from two different angles: farm-based reasons for the actual raising of heritage birds, and the marketing advantages that heritage birds offer for the small farmer. Heritage chickens are a distinctly niche product, and niche production is a boon to the small farm. To be sure, pastured poultry generally is a niche product, but one that is becoming more and more common in many local markets. By opting specifically for heritage birds we further differentiate ourselves and our farm.
Yesterday afternoon I found an ad on Craigslist (a computer classified ad service on the internet) and immediately emailed the ad’s poster (a ‘poster’ is the person who did the listing). Large Black Hog piglets for sale, they were 8 weeks old and located not too far away (well, about an hour and a half, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get piglets). I was so elated when the guy emailed back last night – you have to act fast on Craigslist – he said he had 13 available. I told him I’d come in the morning, cash in hand.
According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Arapawa goat derives from the extinct Olde English milch goat that would have been brought to the country by English settlers. Historic records show that goats of that breed were released in 1777 by European colonist Capt. James Cook on Arapawa Island, known today as Arapaoa Island, located off the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. Although they eventually went extinct in the U.S., the breed thrived on Arapawa Island.
I tend to think of Mr. Conroy as the Leonard Bernstein of the ox world, not that he needs any superlatives now that his nickname (Mr. Oxen) has been upgraded to The Ox God. He was slated to give one of his oxen workshops at the end of the Rare Breeds weekend. Thanks to her unusual outlook and a lot of patient research, Temple Grandin is internationally known for her innovative work in handling livestock animals. She holds a Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois, and is currently a professor in the same subject at Colorado State.