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ALBC Conference a Success
This year’s ALBC national conference was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday November 16th through Saturday the 18th. It was our pleasure to team up and hold a joint event with the American Poultry Association (APA), American Bantam Association (ABA), and the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA). All four organizations held their annual meetings in conjunction with the Crossroads of America Poultry Show. Because of the multi-organizational nature of this event, it was one of the largest poultry shows held in the U.S. in recent years and gathered no less than 11,640 birds along with participants.
The theme of this year’s ALBC conference was Becoming Better Breeders: Tools and Strategies for Success. The conference started along those lines with an all day pre-conference Heritage Turkey Breeder Clinic on Thursday. Led by master turkey breeder Frank Reese, Jr. of Good Shepherd Ranch and ALBC Research and Technical Program Manager Marjorie Bender, the clinic was presented to a sold out audience of eager turkey breeders. Participants learned how to evaluate standard varieties of turkeys for conformation and develop both an understanding and feel for evaluation points.
Friday was the beginning of regular conference activities and began with a presentation on Biosecurity presented by ALBC staff members Donald E. Bixby and Jeannette Beranger. Attendees learned how to use biosecurity as a management tool to help prevent diseases from occurring in livestock and poultry. Topics included learning the basics of disease transmission, biosecurity strategies that reduce exposure to disease, and additional measures that can be implemented during times of disease threat. All of the attendees received a certificate of attendance and materials to personalize a biosecurity plan to fit their own farm.
Following the biosecurity training, ALBC staff Don Schrider and Jeannette Beranger presented a program on Judging, Selecting, and Breeding Chickens for Production. Using tried and true techniques developed at the turn of the last century, participants learned how to apply hands-on evaluation techniques, select stock superior for productivity, and identify quantifiable qualities beyond just good looks. Each participant had an opportunity to feel live birds and gain firsthand experience in production selection. A number of Buckeye chickens from ALBC’s Pilot Project to Recover Breed Production Characteristics (a component of the Renewing America’s Food Traditions Project) were brought to the conference specifically to represent living examples of the qualities discussed. Participants who had kept chickens for years were surprised to learn a new tip or two and immediately recognized the value of the presentation.
It is interesting to note that some of the pilot project Buckeyes were entered in the Crossroads Poultry Show competition to see how they would compare to other lines of Buckeye under a licensed poultry judge. These birds had the distinction of winning “Best of Breed” and “Reserve of Breed” awards in heavy competition, proving that going below the surface and selecting for production attributes is a recognized advantage not only on the farm but in the show-hall as well.
Taking advantage of such a large gathering of fowl in one site, ALBC teamed up with APA and SPPA poultry experts Frank Reese, Jr., Craig Russell, Don Schrider, and Danny Williamson to conduct tours of the rare breeds of poultry on display. These rare breed poultry tours were led by master breeders who guided groups to see and learn about some of the rarest poultry breeds in the world. Participants learned facts and history of rare poultry breeds with living examples displayed right before their eyes. Tour leaders explained the etiquette of showing poultry, helped participants learn to read the identification cards, and handed out an informational sheet with interesting facts for many rare poultry breeds (now available from the ALBC office). Free time was included at the end of the day to allow conference participants an opportunity to explore the poultry show.
After a full day of talks and tours, Friday ended with the ALBC member meeting and reception featuring Belted Galloway beef, Buckeye chicken, and Cayuga duck. Following the meal staff reports were made covering the numerous activities that the organization supports throughout the year. This was also an excellent opportunity for members to network and meet.
Saturday presentations were deep and rich, covering topics such as definition of a breed, breed associations and how they help rare breeds, genetic resource rescue, conservation breeding strategies, and becoming master breeders. Phil Sponenberg was a featured speaker throughout the day, and was joined by others whose expertise complemented his: Donald E. Bixby, Mark See, Glenn Drowns and Marjorie Bender each shared their experience. Participants left with a broader knowledge of the challenges and components of breed conservation as it applies to any species as well as knowledge of the prerequisite human component.
Saturday night, participants were treated to a banquet featuring products from rare breeds such as Mulefoot hog, Barred Plymouth Rock chicken, and Gouda cheese made from milk from Ayrshire cows. Keynote speaker Glenn Drowns, captivated the conference participants after the meal with his quiet passion. His love for “Conservation - One breed at a Time” was clear and engaging. Stunningly beautiful photographs of his poultry drew us in, helping us all to reaffirm our personal calls to conserve the genetic treasures that have been passed to us, and that are ours to pass to the next generation.
Looking towards the future, we are happy to announce that the 2007 annual conference will be held near the ALBC home office of Pittsboro, North Carolina. Members will have the opportunity to visit the home office and enjoy the lovely North Carolina countryside through farm tours and other events. This conference commemorates ALBC’s 30th anniversary and will be a celebration not to be missed!
This article appeared in the ALBC newsletter. As an ALBC member you'll receive 6 bi-monthly newsletters and an annual breeders directory that lists all of our members that have rare breeds and their contact information. New to the breeder's directory in 2008 is a products area where members that have rare breed products can be listed.
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