Many people feel that specialising in a breed is essential for success and important to become an established and recognised supplier of its products. By being a focussed and loyal keeper of a breed, it is possible to have an in-depth understanding and appreciation of many but not all of a breeds infinite qualities, attributes, habits, variations and uses. Only a loyal and experienced keeper of a breed can fully utilise it to its full economical potential. The trained eye of the expert allows for careful selection of breeding stock, continued consistency and perhaps improvement towards a common goal. Continued focus and specialisation also ensures greater understanding of the chosen breed, but is it worth it? What we can learn though specialisation is only accurate and relevant in one specific point in time. Unless new knowledge can be put to practical and economic use immediately it will only remain part of the history of the breed.
On the other hand, it is quite obvious that by remaining focussed you lose perspective of the bigger picture and become vulnerable to change. It seems a lack of understanding of the great variation of breeds in existence means that keepers of livestock without the knowledge would rather give up keeping livestock all together if circumstances change. Without careful consideration many keepers believe that a sheep is a sheep they are all alike and another breed would not make a difference, a foolish but common remark. On the other hand some devoted breed loyalist may believe that their chosen breed is adaptable and suitable for all circumstances that come along. Indeed, given a great deal of time breeds may adapt to vastly new environments but in reality this is unreasonable. Fortunately we can avoid further natural selection by choosing one of the many ready-made native breeds still in existence that are likely to be better suited to your current environmental or economic circumstances. Persevering with a breed because it has been kept in the family or locally for generations may be unnecessary and inefficient. It is thus important as a hobbyist or farmer to remain adaptable.
By being a jack of all trades with a greater appreciation of Livestock breeds and the most notable variations between them of habit, temperament, hardiness, prolificacy and among others productivity you can easily identify the most suitable breed for your changing circumstances. Breeds that are not suited to your environment or level of management will in time suffer from it or become dependent on it, making the whole process uneconomical. Therefore in the first instance breed choice should reflect the environment available and management method and not be solely based on economic theory.
For example it would be foolish to move a heavy and prolific down land breed of sheep that is accustomed to lush grazing and regular human care up to a harsh exposed mountain site. With the belief that you can make such lands even more productive than if a smaller hill breed were used. Such breeds may in most circumstances perform poorly on such sites and become troublesome in terms of care and management. Meaning it would have been more sensible and profitable to utilise a breed naturally evolved and bred for the environment. It is also important to limit the number of breeds that you keep or keep breeds of similar classification.
This will help prevent problems regarding size, temperament, habit, dependence and mothering instinct etc. Some breeds for example may not get on well with another breed if confined in small areas such as winter accommodation. Thus careful breed selection for the chosen environment or management method is essential.
• It is important to remain open minded and have an appreciation for all native breeds that exists.
• Remain adaptable, to cope with changes in human demand, fads, fashions and national and global farming.
• Breed selection should be made to suit environmental and management circumstances, to ensure greatest efficiency.
• Economic circumstances such as increasing feed prices should not see you give up keeping livestock, merely seek a breed or species that has better foraging or grazing attributes, a thrifty breed with a low appetite or independent nature. This is primarily suitable for domestic circumstances and small-scale producers where changing management methods to suit the breed is easier and the use of rare breeds and sale of unique or novelty produce has greater value.