Swiss Village Foundation opening their gates this Saturday

For one day a year, this unique farm welcomes visitors to see inside their facility, where they spend the other 364 days saving heritage breed livestock

Posted 6/7/19

The world loses one livestock breed a month, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. In the 1930's, for example, U.S. farmers raised 15 different breeds of pig; now 6 of …

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Swiss Village Foundation opening their gates this Saturday

For one day a year, this unique farm welcomes visitors to see inside their facility, where they spend the other 364 days saving heritage breed livestock

Posted

The world loses one livestock breed a month, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. In the 1930's, for example, U.S. farmers raised 15 different breeds of pig; now 6 of those are extinct and only 3 can reliably be found on the market.
Right here in Rhode Island, there's an organization that is seeking to do something about this disturbing trend. From the outside, Newport's Swiss Village Foundation (SVF) is a bucolic farm with unique animals and buildings that look like they could have come from the pages of a fairy tale; but if you step inside you find the heart of a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to collecting and preserving the genetic material of rare livestock from around the world.

Heritage breeds carry valuable traits including disease and parasite resistance, heat tolerance, and forage utilization. When particular breeds are allowed to dominate the market they become highly inbred and genetically uniform, allowing for potential problems like the decimation of a food source due to a breed's susceptibility to a single pathogen. Lack of diversity puts not only the affected breeds, but also the people who depend of them for survival, at risk.

What makes SVF’s work uniquely valuable is that they don't just collect the semen of rare breeds, they collect germplasm, which contains the embryos, cells and blood of endangered breeds.

According to their website, in collaboration with Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, "SVF elevates rare-breed conservation to a new level through the cryopreservation of germplasm. By collecting 200 embryos and 3,000 straws of semen per breed, SVF will be able to reawaken a breed with its full genetic diversity within one generation, ultimately protecting of the world’s food supply."

Due to strict biosecurity, to protect both the livestock and their biological collection from disease, SVF is not typically open to the public. But they will be opening this Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for tours of the grounds and to educate the public about endangered breeds and cryo-preservation. Unlike Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, you won't need a golden ticket. Admission is free.

 One of the highlights of a Visitors Day tour is meeting Chip, SVF's resident star, the nation’s first cryopreserved Tennessee Myotonic goat embryo to be thawed and transferred into a common Nubian goat, or surrogate.

Other highlights include:

• Visit the state-of-the-art facilities and meet the SVF laboratory, veterinary, and animal care staff
• Attend live cryogenics and sheep shearing demonstrations
• Shop SVF’s selection of farm products and heritage breed meat
• Enjoy lunch from Julian's Omnibus, a double-decker food truck selling local heritage breed burgers
SVF was founded in 1999 by the late Dorrance H. Hamilton, on two historic properties totaling 45 acres. The facility’s is comprised of 15 buildings including livestock barns, an infirmary, a cryo-room, offices and residences.

Know before you go:

SVF's Visitors Day
Saturday, June 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
152 Harrison Ave., Newport
Free admission
Free bike parking is available on site and bicyclists are encouraged to enter from the Beacon Hill Road entrance. Bicyclists can also walk their bikes through.
Parking will be available at Fort Adams State Park, with free trolley transportation; there will be no parking available at SVF.
For more information call 401/848-7229 or email info@svffoundation.org

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