How serious is the threat to genetic diversity in farm animals?
In the last post of this series on genetic diversity, I want to finish up by giving you some statistics that tell us how seriously genetic diversity in livestock is threatened.
These two statistics—that over twenty percent of the world's livestock breeds are threatened, and that we are losing breeds at the rate of one per month—suggest that a lot of breeds are at risk and that they are disappearing at an alarming rate. There are currently six sheep breeds on the Livestock Conservancy's "Critical" list, and two of them are among my all-time favorites: the Gulf Coast Native, which display what the Conservancy website calls an "exquisite" adaptation to their native environment, the US Southeast, as well as having wonderful wool; and Romeldale/CVM, a fabulous fine wool breed. Also on the list is the Leicester Longwool, the granddaddy of the longwool breeds. I won't even get started on the Santa Cruz, because their story makes me so sad; they have lovely soft wool, and there are only 150 of them left. But that's actually good news; at one point there were only 12.
I urge you to learn more about these breeds. The Conservancy website is a wonderful place to start; if you want to go into more depth, look at Robson and Ekarius' The Fleece and Fiber Source Book and Clara Parkes' The Knitter's Book of Wool. If you're a spinner, spin these breeds; they will delight your fingers and make you a better spinner. If you're a knitter, look for breed specific yarns made from these wools.
We all have a lot to lose.