The Livestock Conservancy

Saving America's Heritage Breeds from Extinction

aka American Livestock Breeds Conservancy   |   Pittsboro, NC   |


The Livestock Conservancy was founded in 1977 to conserve rare breeds of cattle, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Today's rare breeds are quite different from the "factory farm" stocks, which are very productive but require intensive husbandry. The rare breeds retain survival qualities such as disease resistance, foraging efficiency, maternal abilities, and longevity, which make them a perfect fit for organic, grass-based, and humane sustainable agriculture. As well as being useful to farmers today, rare breeds represent the genetic diversity essential for domestic animals to adapt to changing environmental conditions in the future.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Dr. Alison Martin

Main address

PO Box 477 33 Hillsborough Street

Pittsboro, NC 27312 USA

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Formerly known as

American Minor Breeds Conservancy

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy



NTEE code info

Animal Related Activities N.E.C. (D99)

Livestock Breeding, Development, Management (K26)

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Over the past century, America has experienced a significant drop in genetic diversity in animal agriculture. Many breeds have either become extinct or endangered because of agriculture's reliance on just a few highly specialized breeds. Such little genetic diversity puts our food system at risk and threatens extinction of many breeds that retain valuable traits that may be needed in the fiture

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Livestock Conservancy Programs

The Livestock Conservancy has three operating programs. Genetic conservation includes research on breed status and characteristics, technical support to breeders and associations, a gene bank, and the direct rescue of endangered populations. Education describes outreach to the public, press, and policy makers about the importance of rare breeds and includes a variety of books and articles. In the sustainable agriculture program, we are working to expand the use of rare breeds, where they can be "on the payroll" and thus have a greater chance to survive than those kept merely as curiosities. The Conservancy is the leading livestock conservation organization in the U.S., with 3,200 members and part of a network of hundreds of breed associations, sustainable agriculture organizations, historical sites, nature and science centers, and zoos.

Population(s) Served

The goal of this project is to complete a ten-year population census update for heritage (and commercial) livestock breeds. The Livestock Conservancy was the first organization to conduct a national census of heritage breeds; this has been an invaluable tool in sustaining a science-based focus for our conservation work. The current census will assess both endangered and non-endangered breeds to produce an overall picture of the diversity of livestock breeds in the United States. The resulting census data from this project will drive national and international conservation objectives.

Population(s) Served

This program is based on the fundamental premise that the existence and continuity of "old-time” (Master) breeders’ knowledge is critical to conservation. Master Breeders are historians who help bridge production knowledge from this generation to the next. They are a critical resource for conservation. This project includes in-the-field interviews with recognized Master Breeders, documentation and teaching of their methods, and publication of the findings.

Population(s) Served

The Livestock Conservancy is working with a number of partners and universities to make Heritage Pork production an economically-viable enterprise for small and mid-scale farmers, to increase endangered breed swine populations so that they are numerically and genetically secure, and to develop models for pastured, heritage swine production that can be applied nationally. This three-year project is in its first year.

Population(s) Served

Many people do not realize that many of America’s historic breeds are threatened with extinction, and The Livestock Conservancy is leading the quest to educate the public and change perceptions and understandings of agriculture. The Heritage Breed Outreach Initiative brings The Livestock Conservancy's expertise and services to those people around the country who are eager to learn more about raising and conserving heritage breeds.

Population(s) Served

According to The Livestock Conservancy's Technical Advisor, world-renowned conservationist and professor Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, the window for rediscovering "lost” breeds and strains is closing. Many breeds were parked on islands or thrived in harsh environments – and they were essentially forgotten about or only known to a few people. With the loss of old-time breeders and the continuing threat of urban sprawl, these breeds and their histories may disappear forever. The Livestock Conservancy is working with its partners to "re-discover” lost breeds and investigate rumored unique or isolated populations.

Population(s) Served

In our ongoing commitment to making it more profitable to raise heritage breeds, The Livestock Conservancy created the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Challenge. It’s a program that will reward fiber artists for using wool from breeds on our Conservation Priority List while connecting shepherds of heritage breeds with customers.

The Livestock Conservancy has long said that the way to save endangered breeds of livestock is to give them a job. In the case of wool sheep, we need to start using their wool again. Because of marketing challenges, some shepherds discard or compost the wool after their annual shearing rather than cleaning it and selling it. In addition to encouraging fiber artists to try using rare wools, the program also educates shepherds about how to prepare their wool for sale and how to reach customers and fiber artists, thereby making it more profitable to raise heritage breeds.

Population(s) Served

The American Milking Devon is an iconic American breed, a breed that helped build colonial America. Devon cattle crossed the Atlantic with colonists from England in the 1600s. Here they served as oxen to clear trees and stones from farms, provided milk for the first children born in the new land, and were served as beef at home and in taverns for early travelers.

Working together, The Livestock Conservancy and the American Milking Devon Cattle Association are undertaking detailed genetic analysis of the herdbook and DNA to fully evaluate the status and breed structure of Milking Devon cattle for better conservation management. Cryopreservation is another priority that will conserve genetic bloodlines and help breeders far away from each other to exchange genetics. Northeastern farms raising Milking Devons will be recruited to measure production traits. Surveys will be conducted to document feeding and management practices that impact these traits. Milk samples will be evaluated for fatty acid nutritional profile. Continued selection of cattle for milk, beef and draft attributes will help maintain a genetically resilient breed.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


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Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of breeds whose populations are tracked annually.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Each year, The Livestock Conservancy evaluates the population status of American breeds of livestock and ranks at-risk breeds on its Conservation Priority List.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Livestock Conservancy works with farmers, chefs, historians, consumers, and others around the nation to protect genetic diversity in agriculture through the conservation of historic and traditional breeds of farm animals. The diversity represented within these breeds is an irreplaceable resource and is in danger of extinction, largely due to modern industrialization of farming. The Livestock Conservancy's key goals are to discover and identify important populations, secure those populations, and find a way to maintain those populations as a resource for the long term success of agriculture in America.

The Livestock Conservancy uses research, education, outreach, marketing and promotion, and genetic rescues to ensure that these historic breeds are around for future generations. In addition to our in-the-field and research efforts, The Livestock Conservancy works directly with farmers to bridge the gap between conservation theory and on-farm practice. We provide educational materials, information, resources, training, and consultation to equip farmers with the tools necessary to successfully raise and market rare breeds of livestock and poultry.

A nonprofit founded in 1977, The Livestock Conservancy is the leading livestock conservation organization in the United States, with four decades of experience and success. Our work has resulted in an extensive network of producers, scientists, breed associations, and stakeholders that work in collaboration to accomplish program goals in the U.S. and abroad. We are recognized globally as a leader in this field and have helped set the international standard for livestock conservation programs.

The Livestock Conservancy's conservation actions are shaped by the “Discover, Secure, Sustain" paradigm. Below are some of the success stories from The Livestock Conservancy's archives. These examples illustrate the application of “Discover, Secure, Sustain" in projects and actions.

Secure & Sustain: staff member Jeannette Beranger and former staffer Don Schrider developed a master breeder program for Buckeye chickens that has set the gold standard for expansion and selection of rare chicken breeds in America and abroad.

Secure & Sustain: In 1997, The Livestock Conservancy took a census of Heritage Turkeys. There were only 1,335 breeding birds in the whole United States. Between 1997 and 2002, the organization began to get the word out. A specialty newsletter was started and a project with Virginia Tech was initiated to compare the immune systems of Heritage Turkeys and industrial strains. With the help of marketing and education, by 2003, the breeding population had more than doubled, numbering 4,275. The Livestock Conservancy initiated an educational program on how to care for Heritage Turkeys, and how to select quality breeding stock. By 2007, the population exceeded 10,000 breeder birds.

Discover & Secure: One of The Livestock Conservancy's first rescues occurred in December 1987, when it learned that a unique population of feral sheep on Santa Cruz Island (off the coast of southern California) faced imminent eradication. Thanks largely to Phil Hedrick, Marion Stanley, and Dirk Van Vuren; a viable population was brought off the island.

Sustain: The Livestock Conservancy has defined the term heritage for chickens, turkeys, cattle, and swine, helping to set standards for product marketing and helping to generate a niche market for these breeds.

Discover & Secure: The Marsh Tacky project was the culmination of a successful 4 year project to describe, document, and conserve an endangered horse breed previously thought to be extinct. The breed is from the lowlands of South Carolina and is of Spanish descent.

Secure: Former Executive Director Don Bixby initiated a gene bank to store genetic material in case of a crisis and to give breeders access to stored semen.

Secure & Sustain: During the 1980s, hog prices plummeted and many breeders sent their herds to market. In 1999, there were only 42 Red Wattle hogs and 4 breeders. In 2000, The Livestock Conservancy was asked to re-initiate a registry for the Red Wattle hog breeders. Only 3 hogs were registered the first year. The Conservancy helped facilitate communication between breeders. By June 2001, the population had increased to 90 and added 3 breeders and an association had been formed. In 2012 300 Red Wattle hogs were registered and the Red Wattle Hog Association have taken over the management of the registry. Red Wattle hogs were moved from Critical to Threatened on the 2014 Conservation Priority List.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?


The Livestock Conservancy

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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The Livestock Conservancy

Board of directors
as of 01/24/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mrs. Patricia (Pat) Johnston

Akhal-Teke Foundation

Term: 2021 - 2024

Jay "Jerry" Calvert

Richard Browning

David L. Anderson

Gloria Basse

Richard M. Blaney

Judy Brummer

Silas Bernardoni

Rebecca Burgess

Norman Burns

Keisha Cameron

Adam P. Dixon

Cindy Dvergsten

Sam Garwin

Nancy Irlbeck

Neil O'Sullivan

Sandra (Sandy) E. Nordmark

Tim Safranski

Bud Wood

Marie Minnich

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes