What Is a Heritage Breed?

Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds raised by farmers in the past, before the rise of industrial agriculture (factory farming) caused a drastic reduction in breed variety. In the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of being wiped out. Within the last ten years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct.

There were around 150 registered Shropshire sheep in Canada when Montana Jones established the Wholearth Shropshire flock in 2001 to ensure this important heritage breed would survive. With perseverance and dedication by a growing number of breeders, they will one day flourish in Canada again. The Wholearth flock pedigrees trace back to 1882 when the first British imports arrived from England.  John Miller and his descendants had a tremendous influence on the purebred livestock industry in Canada and the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Millers were renowned innovators, importers, breeders, exhibitors, judges and promoters of Shorthorn cattle, Clydesdale horses, Berkshire and Yorkshire pigs, and Leicester and Cotswold sheep as well as Shropshires. Montana wrote a Shropshire history called  “A Likeable Sheep” which describes how Hugh Miller’s last surviving male became her foundation ram.

If you would like to help conserve rare heritage livestock while raising a beautiful sheep—look no further than the Shropshire. They’ve been dubbed “Easy Keepers” because their docility, sound constitution, extreme hardiness, prolificacy, and longevity, enables efficient flock management that involves minimal time and effort. Ewes make excellent mothers and have abundant milk, easily rearing energetic twin and triplet lambs for many years, often past the age of ten. Lambing percentage ranges from 170 to 200%.

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