The Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust (SZH) was founded in 1976 in response to the diminishing variety of traditional breeds, of which some were already threatened by extinction at that point.
Use it or lose it
The traditional breeds of farm animals are part of our heritage. They have been bred to provide traction, milk products, woolnd meat for our society, which made them an essential part of our life.
Rare breeds can become more than museum pieces, because our local varieties and breeds have a special economic, scientific and environmental value. This is also reflected by the growing interest in old breeds over the last years. Old breeds have unique characteristics that can be used in grazing projects, because they are adapted to the different types of environments of The Netherlands. Horses, cattle and some sheep breeds are for instance suited for different types of grassland (wetland included). Other sheep breeds and goats function very well to regain the traditional heather fields and moorland or maintain different types of woodland.
Some local breeds can also be used in sustainable agriculture production systems, where they do not rely on vast amounts of feed concentrate for the production of milk or meat. Besides that, products of rare breeds have unique character. Due to the variety within rare breeds, they vary also a lot regarding the range of products. Uniqueness and quality are very important in creating niche markets. By introducing a label of rare breed products we stimulate the practical commercial use of rare breeds (www.zeldzaamLekker.nl)
Tourism is another ‘product’. Some Dutch Nature Organizations have already discovered the touristic values of rare breeds (herds) as the flagship of a certain region (e.g. herds of heath sheep on the moors. We want to stimulate others to do the same (for instance cycle tours, events and B&B farms that keep rare breeds) and encourage hobby-breeders to choose deliberately for native breeds.
Our objective is to save our native breeds of farm animals from extinction by integrating them into society again. In collaboration with the Centre of Genetic Resources (CGN), SZH stores genetic material of rare breeds in a gene bank, serving as a safeguard.
Raising awareness and education
SZH stimulates contacts between breeders, assists in starting breeders organizations and herd books, helps in defining breeding goals and gives advice on mating combinations. Breeders that want to promote their breed in a really active way can earn the SZH certificate “Erkend Fokcentrum” (certificated breeding centre). ‘Erkend Educatief Centrum (certificated education centre). This are centre where people can meet rare breeds. The importance of education at city farms is also acknowledged and supported by SZH, for example by starting projects in collaboration with the organization, Dutch City Farms.
Rare breeds in Europe
SZH is a partner of the SAVE foundation. SAVE undertakes practical work to ensure a sustainable future for traditional breeds by storing and maintaining their genetic material.
Our living heritage holds opportunities for the future!