Tuesday, June 09, 2009

SVF Foundation Open House Pt. 2 - The Beasts of the Field

The SVF Foundation's main function is to preserve heritage, threatened, and endangered farm animal breeds. The old breeds carry certain immunities and strengths which are often bred out of modern hybrids in the race to breed animals that yield more meat, more eggs, more milk... SVF is dedicated to preserving those breeds whose genetic make-up is more immuno-resistant to common animal diseases and natural resistance to such things as heat, footrot, and other plagues of livestock. To read further about this, click here to read more about their mission, and click here to read about the animal breeds at the farm and what their genetic value is.

And now, without further ado, here are some of the livestock who were on display last Saturday. By the way, when visiting the page for animal breeds, make sure you look up the info pages on the animals pictured below.

There were several animals in the stone pens in front of the cow barn in the "valley". This is a Belted Galloway bull. He was making quite a bit of noise Saturday morning. I don't know if it was lunchtime and he was letting them know it, or if he was jst trying to find somebody to converse with. There are a bunch of these over on the other fields at Hammersmith Farm. You can't miss that black and white striped design!

In the other pen in front of the barn were two pregnant Milking Devon cows. They were both snoozing and not making any sound at all.

These newly-sheared sheep were in the village's "common" in the center of the circle. I have no idea why they were there, other than for decorative purposes, maybe. After all, any self-respecting village common needs sheep grazing on it; it's cheaper than having to use a lawnmower and they leave fertilizer behind that helps the grass recover from their grazing. "Green farming" in a nutshell!

Outside the valley and out next to the Piggery were special pens to display this years prized possessions in the sheep and goats category. And as luck would have it, this year I was actually there for the sheep shearing demonstration. That's some thick wool!

This is a Hog Island Sheep, from the island of the same name off the coast of Virginia. These are a critically endangered species which have gone feral; they were once domestic sheep but long ago left without human interaction. Ferals are important because they preserve genetic material lost from successive hybridization in modern breeds, and they can thrive on minimal forage.

And this is a Hog Island lamb. Hog Islands can come in four distinct genotypes: black, white, horned, and polled (without horns). This little one shared the cage with the horned white sheep above and a black polled sheep which may have been its dam; I didn't pay enough attention to discover gender.

This is Chip, the Tennessee Myotonic Goat. Myotonic goats are also called "Fainting Goats" because their congenital myotonia causes their leg and neck muscles to stiffen when frightened, giving them the appearance of fainting. Chip is special because he was the first embryo transfer performed by SVF, as well as being the first Tennessee Myotonic goat to be born from a frozen embryo. They take very good care of Chip!

This is a Gulf Coast sheep. These are descended from the flocks brought over by the Spanish in the 1500s, and they've adapted to become heat tolerant. In fact, they have no wool on the face, legs, belly, and throat. A little natural air-conditioning, as it were.

And last but not least, the most important creature on the farm - Dakota, the resident Border Collie. Dakota makes sure none of the sheep and goats stray, makes sure they're safe, and herds them back to the barns at the end of the day. Dakota is a sweetheart, but don't distract him while he's on duty; he'll just ignore you.

And those are just some of the "beasts of the field" living at the Swiss Valley Farm. Tomorrow we'll take a last look at the farm, this time at the exotic poultry. This place has some really wild-looking chickens!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. What excellent photos! The black and white lamb reminds me of one of my cats, Daisy.
    I love that Galloway Bull. What a majestic creature he is.


  2. There were some animals here I've not seen before. Chip' story was interesting. He is indeed a special fainting goat. I've seen them put on their act. Very funny.

  3. Great photos, Roy! That black and white cow is really amazing.

  4. ...cool...loved this post too! The newly sheared sheep are so cute! (...and I always love seeing cows.....)
    So...exactly how do you pet a bumblebee? :-)

  5. I can't believe I never visited this place when I lived nearby....it seems so right up my alley.

    great beasts and great building at the svf. thanks for making an armchair visit possible. I can almost smell the place!