Hudson River Landing Farm
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What are Pineywoods Cattle?

Pineywoods 101:  Landrace or heritage plants or animals represent plants and animals with a wide gene pool that have evolved over the centuries largely without human interference.  Most are on the endangered breeds list.

Heritage plants or animals represent plants and animals with a wide gene pool hat have evolved over the centuries largely without human interference. These plants and animals are adapted for survival. They are very hardy, disease resistant, and can survive on a wide variety of food. By contrast, most commercial plants and animals have been selectively bred over the past decades to select for traits that maximize profit. They gain weight quickly, are large, and fat. These traits often require human intervention in order to keep them healthy and to reproduce. These traits may lead to larger profits and a uniform product (think tomatoes all the same size but with no taste!) but come at the expense of a very narrow gene pool. That means a single disease could potentially wipe out all animals of a specific breed. Our animals are of a wide gene pool and are disease resistant. If the worst were to happen, some of our animals would survive. Because of the wide gene pool it would be possible, through selective breeding, to recreate most modern breeds of domestic cattle.  

That is why we have the slogan:  "Heritage Cattle: Preserving Yesterday’s Genes for Tomorrow.” 

To really understand the unique significance of the Pineywoods (also called woods cattle and Raikstraw), Florida Crackers, Coriente, and Texas Longhorns (all descended from the same Spanish stock). You need to imagine yourself a Spanish explorer in 1493 landing on a strange coast, an area different from anything you have seen before, new animals, new vegetation. You don’t even know what is safe to eat!< Fortunately, you have thought ahead and the hold of your sailing ship contains breeding stock of small hardy cattle. You release some knowing that their strong survival instincts will probably allow them to survive and reproduce. When you return a few months or years later you will have a ready food source.

These hardy animals not only did survive, but they adapted to their new home. Most have lived in wild herds until recent time (much like the wild Spanish ponies on the barrier island of Maryland and Virginia). The ones moving west into Texas evolved to survive on wide-open plains and have developed wide sets of horns characteristic of the longhorn breeds. The ones remaining in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi had to survive in thick woods and brushy areas. They are small, nimble, and have narrow slender horns allowing passage through narrow brushy trails. They have adapted to resist insects and common diseases of the region. >They require no assistance with calving and can ward off most dogs and predators with their sharp horns. They can also eat just about anything that grows in the region. They graze grass like domestic cattle. However, they also browse on brush and tree leaves and twigs just like goats. This makes much more efficient use of the land than domestic cattle who will graze only on choice non-native grass. Because cattlemen are really in the business of growing grass to convert into protein we think that it just makes good sense to grow wild natural vegetation and use a machine that can convert it all into protein.

For the first 350 years that these animals were in the new world they truly lived in the wild. Since the mid 1800’s they have live in semi-wild conditions on very large family ranches along the Gulf Coast. The various races or sub-breeds are named after the families who owed the land (Carter, Holt, Barnes, Hickman, Bayliss). All are Pineywoods but the animals on each farm evolved under slightly different conditions and can be recognized by differences in color, shape, and size. The Carter family, for example, can document that from 1810 to recently no cattle have been allowed in or out of their farm. During this time the agricultural programs of the land grant universities were promoting highly bred domestic cattle and saw these as inferior “scrub” animals. Programs were in place to completely eliminate them as a breed.

Fortunately, a group of conservation-minded cattlemen formed the PCRBA to save this unique resource. They acted just in time, as some estimates were that the herd had shrunk to fewer than 200 breeding animals. At Hudson River Landing Farm we are dedicated to preserving this endangered breed and national resource and to keeping them in a natural of conditions as is possible.

"Preserving Yesterday's Genes for Tomorrow"

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Hudson River Landing Farm * 795 Cape Rd * Carnesville * GA * 30521

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