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Conserving rare farm animals

The Story


Ever seen a four-horned Jacob sheep? How about a Newfoundland pony or a Canadienne cow? Wild plants and animals are not the only species at risk in Canada. Many domesticated animals that are no longer considered commercially viable have been neglected almost to the point of extinction. CBC Radio's Bill Richardson talks to Jy Chiperzak, a filmmaker-turned-farmer dedicated to conserving rare domestic breeds in Canada. He believes that the preservation of genetic diversity may be the key to our agricultural future, and is working towards regenerating heritage breeds. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Gabereau
Broadcast Date: Dec. 9, 1991
Guest: Jy Chiperzak
Host: Bill Richardson
Duration: 2:48
Photo: Smoke Ham Farm

Did You know?


• Jy and Gail Chiperzak founded Joywind Farm Rare Breed Conservancy in 1986 as a charity dedicated to conserving heritage, rare and minor breeds of Canadian farm animals. In 1996 Joywind was sold and re-formed as Rare Breeds Canada, whose national network of host farms aims to preserve rare gene pools with living animals as well as non-living gene banks.

• Most often, rare breeds are preserved because they have qualities that may be valuable in the future. In some cases the reasons are not only genetic and scientific, but aesthetic and historical as well. The Ancient White Park cow, for example, was the sacrificial cow of the Druids and it is rumoured that King Charles II considered it so delicious that he knighted it "Sir Loin". The Ancient White Park is one of the many animals conserved by Rare Breeds Canada.

• Modern farming practices create a dependency on a narrow genetic base. For example, 95 per cent of dairy herds in Canada are Holstein cows.

• The same methods that have been used to narrow the gene pool can be used in its preservation as well. These include selective breeding, artificial insemination and embryo transplantation.

• There are also groups dedicated to the conservation of plant genetic resources. In Canada, Seeds of Diversity is a charitable organization made up of farmers, gardeners, teachers, agricultural historians, researchers and seed vendors. They grow rare and unusual plants and trade them in an annual seed exchange.

• Seeds of Diversity had a membership of 1,700 in 2002.


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