It is always valuable in any new endeavor to pause and take stock of the progress made. As we enter the summer of 2018 I think it’s a good time to review the growth, success’s and the work still required of the American Meishan Breeders Association. To frame our progress it is important to remember that the A.M.B.A. was incorporated on October 13th, 2016. Our first member joined in December 2016. So the progress noted below has occurred in just 19 short months.
Progress-I had a discussion just today with a breeder of an animal that offers “registration papers” with no pedigree history. I am hard-pressed to find the value to the breeder in that model. Even if purity is assumed, purity without a pedigree isn’t a breeding resource it’s simply a rubber stamp for members. Today the A.M.B.A. has the only on-line pedigree database for the Meishan breed. And that database is growing. Currently, it features over 70 active breeding hogs representing all three research bloodlines. All offspring produced from these pedigreed breeders have the information to produce a minimum of three generation pedigree. In addition, the pedigree database includes over 150 ancestral hogs which provide the data points to determine coefficients of inbreeding (COI). Data that has never been available to Meishan Breeders before. The Association tracks litter size performance with the use of litter stars. Litter size will be a critical component in tracking the genetic health of the Meishan breeding herd as it usually is one of the first casualties of heavy inbreeding. As each new litter hits the ground and as new breeders join the effort to preserve this critically endangered breed this database will become the capstone from which these genetics will be documented and managed.
Work still required– We have delayed the rollout of our online litter registration system and pedigree transfer form system. We are carefully weighing manual(registrar) versus member(online) entry. We are continuing to evaluate the intended and unintended impacts each method might have on the database. Primarily we are concerned that without proper safeguards against data entry errors significant data damage could be experienced. We are also looking at the cost of our options. Like the carpenter, we want to measure twice and cut once. In the meantime, litter registrations and request for pedigree forms are being handled manually via email. This is an important exercise as we track the genetic health of the herd. Just email your info to email@example.com and we will get your pedigrees to you in a timely manner.
Progress: We have been thrilled by the reception to the A.M.B.A. by current and future Meishan Breeders. Today we offer three memberships. Annual Associate Membership, Annual Certified Breeder Membership and Lifetime Membership. The Associate Membership is for the serious breed researcher who wants access to the members-only section of the website and to the pedigree database. We currently have 16 Certified breeders listed in our breeder locator located in 14 different states and those numbers continue to grow.In all our active membership is over double that number. Because our growth has been so far ahead of schedule and because the A.M.B.A. has been able to run under budget we have decided to reduce our annual membership fees.
Work still required: The continued growth of this amazing and unique breed depends on its breeders and supporters. And the growth of the A.M.B.A. requires that we deliver value to those breeders. We encourage everyone looking to support this effort to save these critically endangered genetics to consider:
1. Joining the A.M.B.A.- 100% of your membership dollars go to the effort to preserve and document this breed. For as little as $20 per year, you can support this effort. You need not own a registered Meishan to join. Your membership will give you access to the members-only portions of the website if you are currently researching the breed.
2. Support your local breeder.As member breeders come on board they are offering both genetics and Meishan pork. Meishan pork is some of the finest premium pork available. We encourage you to patronize your local A.M.B.A. breeder. In this way, you are supporting their efforts to save this critically endangered breed
3. Consider becoming a breeder. This is a step you may want to carefully consider. But before taking the leap we encourage all prospective breeders to have a clear vision for what their farm model is and how the Meishan breed might fit in your farm model. Docile and medium-sized it is an excellent pig to raise on pasture but it is significantly more prolific than most “homestead” breeds. Know where your pigs are headed before you breed them. We suggest you research any endangered heritage breed thoroughly before committing to it.
Progress: In 2017 the American Meishan Breeders Association petitioned the Livestock Conservancy to evaluate the population of Meishans world-wide. Normally a breed is placed into the study phase by the Conservancy first and then a final decision is made after enough population data is gathered. However due to the generous efforts of the American Meishan Breeders Association Advisory Council the A.M.B.A.was able to provide the Conservancy with direct contacts to Huazhong Agricultural University inside if China. The data provided indicated a much more dire situation than was anticipated. Today it is estimated that there are less than 2000 documented pure Meishans worldwide. Because of this, the Conservancy in their 2018 CPL (Conservation Priority List) declared the Meishan breed as critically endangered. This was one of the most important steps to create awareness about the breed. In addition to recognizing the breed, the Conservancy recognized the A.M.B.A. as the only active registry of the breed. We are excited by these actions taken by the Livestock Conservancy and continuing to work with this organization to document the conservation progress of the breed will be a major focus of the A.M.B.A. For 2018 the A.M.B.A. has purchased display ads for the Association in all Livestock Conservancy Quarterly News Letters and in the Annual Directory.
Mother Earth News Fair- The A.M.B.A. was able to have a booth at the 2018 Asheville North Carolina Mother Earth News Fair. Despite the short notice we were thrilled with the booth and we want to thank one of our original members Jensen Reserve farms for bringing Meishan piglets to Asheville from their farm outside of Atlanta GA. The entire project was made possible with their generous donation of time and effort.
Online Webinar: Through contacts established through the Livestock Conservancy my wife was invited in 2017 to do an online webinar for the Home Grown Food Network. Through those contacts, my farm was invited to do a presentation on the Meishan breed in 2018. The HomeGrown Food network is a major producer of internet-based content and each year their webinar roster of presenters include some of the leading experts on homesteading and smallholder farming. Each of the last two years that has included people like Joel Salatin.Many thanks to our my friend Barry Byrd at Beam Productions for his incredibly generous efforts and professional editing. We hope to have this entire presentation on the A.M.B.A. YouTube Channel soon.
In addition to the announcement by the Conservancy, the A.M.B.A. and its member breeders have been the subject of three major articles in national publications during the last quarter of 2017 and the first half of 2018
Out Here Magazine: A free publication distributed by Tractor Supply at there retail locations. Out Here reaches a broad audience. In the Winter 2017 issue, the Meishan Breed was featured in an article by Jeanette Beranger program director of the Livestock Conservancy. The article was titled Ancient Pigs of China.
Countryside & Small Stock Journal Magazine: The March/April Issue of Countryside magazine(a major National magazine available at newsstands) was their annual “Pig ” Issue. Titled “Saving the Meishan Pig and the Ossabaw Island Hog” the article highlighted two critically endangered breeds of swine. It is still available online to subscribers of Countryside Digital Content.
Farm Show Magazine: A newspaper type magazine printed 7 times per year and distributed nationally Farm Show did an article on the breed in their Vol 42 No 3 2018 issue. You can purchase that issue here. The article focuses on the recovery of the USDA and Illinois herds.
In addition, we continue to grow our Internet presence and social media footprint for the benefit of both our member breeders and the Meishan breed.
YouTube: Recently we launched the A.M.B.A. YouTube channel. As of this blog post, we have had 4000 views of our content. The A.M.B.A. is actively seeking more video content from our member breeders. If you would like to make a submission please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook: we maintain an Official Facebook Page for the A.M.B.A. and we have a forum and discussion page which is the second-largest and fastest-growing Meishan page on Facebook. These pages are open to members and non-members alike. Please read the pinned post and come join the discussion.
Work still to be done: We are continuing to seek out ways and outlets to spread awareness of the Meishan Breed In the near future will be adding an Instagram and Pinterest Page.
We encourage each member breeder to seek out media outlets to spread the word on the true nature and characteristics of the Meishan breed.The battle to save these genetics will be won through the dissemination of accurate information. Unfortunately today all the information being offered on the breed doesn’t always fit that description.
Well, this post turned out to be a bit longer than I intended. But the progress the A.M.B.A. has made has truly exceeded our expectations. We would like to thank our dedicated members who made the decision to commit to this effort in its infancy. It is through your commitment and the commitments of future breeders that these genetics will be documented and saved.
Be well and Be Blessed,
American Meishan Breeders Association