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Through the years, it has been discovered that there are endangered species of various animals. Much of the media focus seems to be on the ones in the wild with little to no discussion on domestic livestock. The Livestock Conservancy of North Carolina has been encouraging interest in these beloved farm animals for many years and began a special promotional campaign that is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

In May, 2015, the Heritage Breeds Week was introduced in the United States with participation across the nation concerning livestock and poultry. The week culminated with a National Heritage Breeds Day. The response was so positive and overwhelming that there is now several livestock breed organizations who have joined the Livestock Conservancy for this event.

The new name, reflecting the worldwide participation, is the International Heritage Breeds Week with the special day at the end of the week to cap off the campaign.

The purpose for the initiative, according to www.livestockconservancy.org, “aims to raise global awareness about endangered heritage breeds of farm animals. Many of our traditional livestock and poultry breeds have been replaced with more ‘improved’ breeds in modern animal agriculture, at the expense of a massive loss in genetic diversity. Worldwide, about one domesticated livestock breed every month is lost to extinction.”

Sixteen groups are working together and supporting the weeklong celebration of breed diversity. Most are offering ideas for farmers, producers, ranchers and interested organizations to help spread the information. Obviously, social media is a tool that can assist in the goal of informing people about the importance of these animals and breeds. Better yet are the numerous opportunities to share with local communities and their residents, and these can be used throughout the year.

Many national organizations have small groups representing a town or area. Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions are just a few of the nonprofit organizations who meet on a regular basis, sometimes weekly, and are quite often looking for speakers to present at their gatherings. Volunteering approximately an hour will be worth a lot in the future toward educating the public.

In addition, working with 4-H clubs or FFA chapters provides the young people with opportunities to practice public speaking and learning more about the animals they will be showing at the county fair.

Speaking of the yearly agricultural event, most counties host a fair and there is a golden opportunity to share printed materials, media and one-on-one interaction concerning the campaign. The groups that sponsor the International Heritage Breeds Week have an ongoing goal, whether it is education or adding another breeder to the list of producers who pledge to help keep these rare breeds alive.

Livestock Conservancy covers cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, donkeys, rabbits and the various poultry. Overall, they are working to preserve thousands of animals representing breeds that have histories going back many years with this work being constant.

Another popular event is a weekly farmers market where attendees are interested in agriculture and local food, crafts, and products. Some would be open to a literal ‘petting zoo’ where live examples can be displayed and people can interact with the animals. Posters, printed literature and exhibits can further the educational experience.

The International Heritage Breeds Week is a great starting point to share the love and appreciation for livestock with a look to the future. For more information, visit https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/what/internal/international-heritage-breeds-week.

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