Project Gene Banks – Rare Breeds

I’m lucky enough to have a piece of land, and a barn. Giving me the opportunity to keep some animals. Although I’m a vegetarian, and do not eat my animals, I believe in living with, and caring for animals – and using some of their produce. I have chickens, Guinnea fowl, Muscovy ducks, bees, goats, cats, fish, and a dog. For a while I also kept pigs, as live soil cultivators. Several of my animals are part of a rare breed conservation programme, a so called live gene bank.

Today’s animal production is generally characterised by extreme breeding programmes for animals, to increase their productivity at all cost, ignoring health for both the animals, and the people eating them. In a time before people starting breeding that way, there were farm animals who were naturally resistant to deceases, who had easy births, didn’t need much medication, and who could sustain themselves on less nutrient rich fodder. They were adapted to the local climate and conditions. Most of these local breeds have disappeared entirely, as all farmers were under great pressure to follow the trends of ever increasing production, and decreasing costs. But this game had some false cards in it – among others, the fossil fuel, creating an illusion of “cheap” production that many generations from now, our decendants will still be paying for. Involved in this meat production, are not only environmental concerns, and bad householding of resourses, but also great global injustices, that cause starvation of some, and deseases caused by excess in others.

Although I am a vegetarian, and do not eat animals myself, eating other organisms is what we all do, unless we are plants and can photosynthesise. I do not see it as ethically wrong to eat animals, any more than eating plants. But from a resource perspective, and from the perspective of ethical animal production, I think we should eat much less fish and meat in the rich parts of the world, than we do now. Much less. To me, it seems much more logical to be breeding animals that can live off scraps, or of grasses and other high-cellulose plants that we humans can not digest, than to breed animals that require high quality feed, that could be used by humans directly.

My animals:

The bees
This was a matter of pure luck – a swarm of bees were searching my old stone wall this past summer, for a new home – and my friend Anders suggested that I put a hive out for them. Since I’ve had bees before, I had an empty hive to put out – and they moved in straight away! They didn’t manage to produce any more honey than what they used themselves on this first summer, so I’m just hoping that they’ll survive the winter ok, and hopefully increase in strenght next season. When I worked at the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden in Malmö, I used to have bees in the city, on a roof – which is really a good thing! The bees thrive from the extended flowering season that comes from all the gardens and parks wish to have flowers as long as possible, using crocuses in early spring, and ivy flowers in late autumn, and everything else in between.

    My new tennants – the 2011 swarm,
that volonteered to live here
  Me beekeeping on Augustenborgs
Botanical Roof Garden.
    The Goats
I have eight goats of the Southern Swedish rare breed Göingeget. There are approximately 250 of them total in the world. But when they were discovered, some 30 years ago, and people realised how nearly we were loosing this locally adapted goat breed, there were actually only four individuals left! As you might imagine, a lot of inbreeding had to occurr to increase their numbers to a viable population, but luckily for this breed, it has not had a negative effect. If there are no mortal or seriously weakening genes present in the few saved animals that start the population – then the inbreeding is not weakening or harmful in later generations either. I use my goats as grazers to keep my land open and biologically rich, and I get a lot of good manure for my garden. I would have milked them, if I had the time to make it a routine, because the milk, if treated right, is delicious! But for now, the goats’ own kids get to take it all.

Two of my lovely goats.





The Chickens and Guinnea Fowl
My favourite chicken breed, so far, is the Bantam Cochin. Lovely, calm birds, with a cute ball shape, that come in a wide range of colours. They lay a reasonably good amount of delicious little eggs, and they are good mothers, raising their own brood without difficulty. I keep thinking I should replace them for a rare swedish breed that needs concervation, but so far I’ve not found such a breed that I like better than my little Cochins. The two birds to the right are Guinnea fowl. These are African savannah birds, that are not closely related to the domesticated chickens. I keep them because of their good reputation for eating ticks and other parasites – and in fact, since I got them, my cat cyrry, who used to have an enormous abount of ticks, has much less! I still don’t know if it’s because of the guinneas, or the two severe winters we’ve had lately. Guinnea hens lay lots of good eggs too!

    The Muscovy ducks
These ducks also belong to the breeds of fowl that have been adapted to swedish climate, deseaseas and food for such a long time that they are kept in a live gene bank to avoid that these adaptations get lost as they are crossed with other imported muscovy ducks. Of course, also the swedish breeds were once imported to Sweden – muscovy ducks are south american of origin, but they’ve been here for 300 years, which is enough to have developed into a local breeed. My ducks eat slugs and snails and other garden “pests”, as well as graze the lawn – especially picking out the delicious dandelion leaves! The ducks have a special part to play in my aquaponic experimental garden.
    The fish   The Fish
As I’m planning to start an aquaponic garden, I started looking at what fish species are suitable. So far, my conclusions are that we need to use a warm water species for greenhouse systems, and another, winter hardy species for outdoors systems. The most used fish species for aquaculture in the world is the Nile Tilapia. I couldn’t get hold of that, but instead a closely related Mossambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus.) For the moment I keep 10 tilapia in an ordinary indoor aquarium, however, these fish will move out in the greenhouse in the summers, once I have my aquaponic system set up. These fish are edible, and easy to breed.
    The Pigs
Well, when we moved here, my garden was a veritable jungle of stinging nettles, thistles, and other hard-to-manage perennial weeds, so my solution to that was a couple of live cultivators. These are Linderöd pigs, another swedish rare breed They have their instincts intact, and do an excellent job at uprooting and eating the weeds, root and all. These friendly beasts have been very efficient, and good, loving friends to have. However, they are so efficient at their work, that it is not manageble for me to keep them long term. One of them unfortunately died, and the other will move on to do her thing to make Linderöd pigs less rare! She will move to the pig-lover Eva to have piglets.
  The pigs
    The Cats and Dog
These are some of the resident rat- and mouse chasers (and bed warmers) of the farm.
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© Grönare Stad AB - Louise Lundberg