The best way to conserve native livestock breeds is to use them in sustainable agriculture. In the case of endangered livestock breeds it is also called on-farm conservation (in situ conservation).
Here especially the breeders organized in breeding associations are addressed. For the mostly non endangered high-performing breeds, breeding programmes are carried out, which primarily serve to increase performance. Depending on the animal species and the manner of use, performance can be fattening, milk or wool performance, product quality and other economically significant characteristics. However, conservation breeding programmes are required for highly endangered livestock breeds, which are primarily intended to limit inbreeding growth.
The endangerment of a livestock breed often results from economic disadvantages compared to high-performing breeds. Although the general conditions can change again and livestock breeds that were once threatened with extinction can be re-utilized. Until then, however, the economic disadvantages of the endangered livestock breeds must be compensated in such a way that their breeders and keepers can work profitably. The payments for endangered livestock breeds are a very effective measure. Filling market niches, for example in regional marketing, can also help, provided that sufficiently high producer prices can be achieved.
Organic farming with its more extensive farming methods also offers opportunities for some rare livestock breeds. In addition, EU legislation on organic farming (Article 8 of Regulation (EC) No 889/2008) requires the preferential use of native livestock breeds. In suckler cow husbandry, for example, the spectrum of native cattle breeds can serve almost every intensity level.
Last but not least, the use of endangered, extensive livestock breeds in landscape conservation and nature conservation is a form of on-farm conservation.
The Society for the Conservation of Old and Endangered Breeds e.V. (GEH) has successfully carried out the on-farm conservation of endangered livestock breeds in their ark facilities since 1995. In the poultry sector, the initiative for the conservation of old poultry breeds (IEG) is also engaged in the valorisation of old poultry breeds in agriculture.