Sobre Zaltana was built to be a natural and organic farm that takes advantage of the symbiotic relationships that were created in a variety of animals versus focusing on a particular species. We do our best to bring in livestock that are “heritage breed”, meaning that they carry many of the old-school traits that have been bred out of most of the commercialized breeds.
With the growth of the industrialized food system, livestock have been “selected” for only two things in mind… greater output or production along with fast growth. Examples of commercialized breeds include the cornish cross chickens and broad breasted turkeys that can no longer even reproduce naturally and need to rely on artificial insemination. That right there should give us one hint that there is something wrong… they cannot reproduce on their own! What place do they have in the natural world? None, but in an industrialized food system, they fit nicely because they can remain in a controlled and stifled environment their entire lives and produce a lot of meat quickly.
Another example would be the Holstein dairy cow. Although I believe most of them can reproduce naturally, the farmers that have breed them the last number of generations have focused so strongly on production – as much as possible, as quickly as possible, that these cows generally only last a few years and are then disposed of due to their drop in production. When you take a heritage breed cow, you will find that production slowly increases over the first handful of lactation’s and that the cow lasts a good 12+ years as a solid milk cow. You will also notice that a number of traits are not selected for in the Holstein, such as easy, natural caving, strong, good legs, etc. The overall wellness of the breed gets tossed out the window in the name of production.
Many of the heritage breeds (or heritage versions of a given breed) are hard or near impossible to find. In these case, we start with the best we can and select for the traits we are looking for… paying close attention to the big picture and not narrowing down on a couple traits.
We raise Guernsey dairy cows that supply us with a very rich and sweet, delicious raw milk. We fell in love with this breed, their wonderful, calm, dispositions, and their beauty. Unfortunately, many of the Guernsey bloodlines have been influenced by poor selection choices that came with the goal of increasing production. They are hard to find, but there are a few farms that remain in the US that are focusing on preserving the breed for what it used to be – a hardy, grass fed, strong cow that can produce milk for well over a decade. We are committed to influence and preserve this breed, helping to bring it back to what it once was.
Heritage Breed Jersey Cows
This is another breed that has been influenced heavily by the commercial dairy industry. We thankfully were able to find our girl, Sweet Pea, at a farm close by that shares the same desires for preserving the breed. Sweet Pea is strictly grass fed and is able to maintain a good body condition on this diet. She is also bred for longevity which means she starts off producing less milk in her first few lactation cycles, but then increases as she gets older, and maintaining a peak lactation for a number of years. She is also a bit smaller than many Jerseys that would find in a dairy, but not a “miniature” Jersey that is a popular trend these days.
The Tamworth pig is an old heritage breed that is much slower growing than some of the commercialized breeds of pigs. They are good at foraging and make good natural moms without having to make use of a farrowing crate. Their longer body produces more bacon than most pigs, so they are often known as the “bacon pig”.
At one time, Shropshire sheep were the most popular breed of sheep in the US. This changed quickly when farmers started specialize not only in a specific breed of an animal, but also a purpose for that animal. The Shropshire makes a wonderful “dual-purpose” sheep in that it produces a wonderful meat and also a high quality wool. But, since it is not the “best” of breeds at either of these, people moved towards the specialized meat or wool breeds and away from the Shropshire.
We just love this breed of sheep – their look and temperament along with the quality of the caucus and the wool. They are also very efficient at converting grass forage and do not require grain to grow to a good size.