“Geese are social, intelligent birds that tend to get along with other livestock, from chickens to donkeys. They may get aggressive during the breeding season, but that doesn’t mean these fowl deserve to be characterized as barnyard fiends.”
Traditions are an important part of our lives. They give you a chance to celebrate life, what you love most, and your history. Raising heritage geese is an old tradition that is rarely practiced today. Heritage geese are a traditional livestock that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture. Since no one practices this tradition anymore, the population of heritage geese is declining. These geese should be saved.
A few farms, like Dave Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center, Flip Flop Ranch, and Sassafras Valley Farms, stick to their tradition of raising heritage geese. Connie, owner of Sassafras Valley Farms, said on her website that “We are one of the very few farms that raise geese in this part of Missouri, and people call me the goose lady, owner of the oddball farm (as far as pastured animals go), but I find the title, ‘goose lady,’ endearing.”
Flip Flop Ranch is known for its collection of Cotton Patch geese. The owner of the Cotton Patch geese, Tom Walker, once said:
“Over a period of three or so years I traveled more than 10,000 miles to Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee trying to find as pure as possible some Cotton Patch geese. I have breeding pairs representing the best that I could find during that time. I hope that there are enough good quality Cotton Patch geese remaining to re-establish this lovely, mild-tempered goose to its erstwhile purity.”
I have raised geese for only a year, but I am already in love with these birds. I am willing to carry on the practice of raising heritage geese for many years to come, and I hope that future generations will find that raising geese is special, too.
Heritage geese are on the brink of extinction because they are not often raised. When geese first came to America, they got their place as a number one source of meat, eggs, fat, down, and feathers. In fact, goslings and geese were used for weeding large fields of corn, cotton, and more. However, when the commercial farming of chickens and turkeys came into existence, the number of geese sadly declined.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) found that four of the domestic goose breeds were critically endangered, or close to extinction. That means their numbers were less than 500 breeding birds. Those four breeds are the American Buff, Pilgrim, Pomeranian, and Roman. Added to the list are the Cotton Patch and the Shetland. The Sebastapol (a Russian breed that is identified by its curly feathers) is classified as rare, with less than 1,000 breeding birds. The African, Chinese, and Toulouse geese are in the Watch category, meaning that there are fewer than 5,000 breeding birds.
The number of the Heritage geese is still declining. The geese serve as an important genetic resource (non-heritage breeds, like the industrial form of the Toulouse goose, are descendants of the heritage breeds), and when these breeds become extinct, their unique genes are lost forever. That way, they can’t be used to make new and improved breeds. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy stated:
“A conservation study is underway because of concern that the genetic base for the [Shetland] breed in the United States may be too narrow to sustain.”
The disappearance of heritage geese means losing part of our history that we cannot get back. To save the heritage geese, raise your own to help get raising geese back in business. Also, donate to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy to help them find out how low the population of geese is, and spread the word.
For many years, people have feared geese because of recent attacks. However, geese aren’t always aggressive. Geese can be very territorial, but only because they aren’t used to being neared by humans, and because they see us as predators, so they are afraid. But, when bonded with someone, they turn into a great pet. Wouldn’t it be awesome to say that you have a pet goose that follows you around and eats out of your hand? Yes, geese are sweet when given the chance to bond.
But that’s not why I’m writing this post. The reason why- geese are going extinct or endangered due to the fact that very few farms raise them. Seven of twelve heritage breeds of geese (What are heritage geese?) are going extinct. One of them, the Cotton Patch goose, has only about 224 geese left. Help them by adopting a goose.
What good are heritage geese?
Geese are useful in many ways. They make great pets, they are great for meat and eggs, they make fancy lawnmowers, and they are amazing guard dogs. Different geese equals different temperaments and uses- so the right breed could be a great addition to your home.
How would I take care of heritage geese?
Geese are easy to take care of. All they need is fresh water, feed, a good shelter, and a place to graze (well, now they sound like cows! Haha) See these websites to learn about care for geese:
(Medicated feed is not recommended. Hiland Naturals sells organic feed. Tractor Supply sells feed that will work for geese.)
What heritage breed of geese should I get, and how many?
For the breed of geese, I would take one listed under Critical on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. Click the names of the breed to learn more about them. If you are someone looking for a pet goose, one will work well when you have a lot of time to spend with it. A pair (both of the same sex if you are not looking to breed geese) would work if you do not have much time. If you live on a farm, several pairs will work, depending on how much acreage you have.
Where would I get my heritage geese?
Here are a list of hatcheries. You may have to search for local breeders of heritage geese.
Metzer Farms Hatchery
Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center
I can’t adopt a heritage goose. Is there any other way to save the geese?
If you aren’t able to adopt a heritage goose, help save the geese by donating to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC). Donate to ALBC. Another way you can save the heritage geese is to spread the word, and support the heritage goose farms around you.
Thank you for your support!
Save the Heritage Geese!
Click Here to see the previous post on the story of a gosling.
Desi, our Brown African Goose, waiting for a treat.
Jack, our Toulouse goose.