Our Breeds

Large Black Pig

The term Large Black Pig is not just a description – it is the registered name of a specific breed of endangered Old World English hog that was once very common.

The Large Black is an orchard pig developed from the black pigs of Devon and Cornwall and the European pigs found in East Anglia. This hardy breed was developed by our ancestors to be raised outdoors, preferring to graze on a variety of grasses and vegetation in open pastures. The Large Black is ideally suited to small farms and sustainable agriculture operations – this is a pig that can produce a quality product for an ever increasing niche market. Thanks to micro-marbling of intra-muscular fat, the Large Black is extremely moist, juicy and flavourful.

Our pigs live well – we do not ring their noses, dock their tails or clip their teeth at birth – there is no need when raised in open pastures.

The Large Black Pig is recognized as a critically endangered species, not only here but worldwide. When pork production became industrialized in the 1950s, this slow-growing foraging breed was not suitable for the close confinement of factory farms. In spite of its docile temperament and exquisite taste, its numbers have dropped to about 200 registered hogs in Canada today.

At Upper Canada Heritage Farm, we are dedicated to the re-establishment of this valuable breed. In 2011, we imported a bloodline from the U.S. to introduce new genetics to Canada’s stock of Large Black Pigs.

Lynch Lineback Cattle

Lynch Lineback cattle are a landrace breed, meaning that they are a native breed that has been developed to suit our Canadian climate. They are a triple purpose animal; the cows yield high quality milk, while the steers yield well-marbled meat with a nice flavour. Steers can also be trained as oxen for draft animals.

The Lineback, so named because of a striking white stripe running the length of their back, were brought to the St. Lawrence islands during the 1800s by wealthy British landowners. The Lynch family of Mallorytown, Ontario, purchased several of these cattle and traversed the St. Lawrence River to the mainland. (I believe they actually swam across!)

Lineback cattle were at one time quite numerous in eastern Ontario but as the use of artificial insemination became popular, farmers started to breed their cows to the more popular breeds like Holsteins. However, the Lynch family has continued for generations to keep the breed and help homesteaders to begin their own small herds.

Lynch Linebacks have been bred to perform on forage diets alone and do very well on native pastures. They are a hardy animal that can withstand the cold and thrive on stony or wet pastures.

Robert Lynch’s cattle are fed a grass diet with no additives and no growth supplements. The cattle lead a calm and contented life on pasture, which ensures they are rich in Omega 3, conjugated lineolaic acid (CLA) and Vitamin E. When fed on grass, cattle ingest about 15 times more vitamin E per day than they do on a typical commercial diet, and levels in the meat can be between two and three times higher than grain-fed cattle as a result.

In 2016, I am pleased to announce that Upper Canada Heritage Meat will again be using Lynch Lineback steers for our CSA beef.

Lincoln Red Cattle

The Lincoln Red is a slow maturing, traditional British cattle breed introduced to Canada in the early 1900s. Its origins can be traced back to the cattle brought to England by the Vikings. Extremely hardy and easy-care, this low input breed ideally suits the harsh Canadian climate.

From 2009 to 2012, we worked in alliance with John and Lorraine Ashby, owners of Stonehedge Farms and the Lincoln Reds to supply delicious grass fed beef to our CSA customers. Since 2013, we have jointly decided to allow the Ashby’s herd to proliferate only.

Ridley Bronze Turkey

In the fall of 2011, Upper Canada Heritage Farm acquired a starter flock of ten Ridley Bronze turkeys. It was our hope to raise enough of these hardy birds to provide a Christmas turkey to each of our CSA members, as well as to distribute starter flocks to other like-minded farmers. We were very successful in encouraging the hens to lay early and we incubated many of the eggs, resulting in a large number of poults.

We faced several challenges in raising the turkeys. We lost 19 to inclement weather (and learned not to trust them to go into their shelter on their own). By mid summer, our remaining turkeys were growing very well and all seemed good – until one week when 5 turkeys died suddenly. An autopsy revealed that they died of liver failure due to a disease called Blackhead. This disease is carried by chickens, but does not overtly affect them. However, turkeys are extremely vulnerable. And there is no cure for the disease.

Hence, we sold our youngest poults, which were still in the brooder and had had no contact to the soil. And we made the difficult decision to end our relationship with the Ridley Bronze, even though our remaining turkeys stayed healthy and continued to grow. Blackhead remains in the soil for many years and we do not want to take the risk.

Partridge Chantecler (a.k.a. Albertan) Chicken

Upper Canada Heritage Farm purchased four Partridge Chantecler chickens in 2009 and they have multiplied well. We turned them over to our friends at Stonehedge Farm in 2011 in order to keep the breed pure (since our farm is scattered with miscellaneous chickens of different breeds that free range and interbreed). The Chantecler is considered a dual purpose breed for eggs and meat.

Of more than 100 different purebred types of poultry worldwide, the Chantecler is the only true Canadian breed, originating in Quebec in the early 1900s. A Trappist monk from Oka developed the breed to suit the Canadian climate, with small combs and wattles to minimize frostbite in winter.

The breed is noted for being calm, gentle, and personable – a quiet dual-purpose bird with an abundance of breast and thigh meat. The chicks grow fast on a low food intake. They are very good layers year round, with an average egg production of 200 a year.

The Chantecler has been nominated to be added to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. In December 1999 the Quebec government officially designated the Chantecler as a provincial heritage animal.

There are an estimated 1500 birds in existence today, most living on small hobby farms with an interest in the preservation of heritage breeds.

Cayuga Ducks

We acquired ten Cayuga Ducks in 2009, but unfortunately, we lost all but two in 2011 to an unknown predator. The remaining two ducks are male.

According to lore, the Cayuga Duck is a breed developed from a pair of wild ducks that a New York State miller caught on his mill pond in 1809. The miller was reported to have pinioned the birds’ wings so they could not fly away and they promptly settled into life on his pond in Duchess County. The ducks became popular as a table bird and were noted for their ability to lay numerous eggs. They were named “Cayuga” after the native people of that area. By 1874 the Cayuga duck was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.

The Cayuga is an easy bird to keep because it rarely wanders from home. It is not able to fly well because of its heavier body weight compared to smaller breeds of duck.

The Cayuga is recognized as one of the hardiest of the domestic ducks and are easily tamed if hand-raised. They tolerate the harsh winters of the northeast U.S. and Canada and can produce many offspring. The Cayuga averages 7-8 lbs. and has the ability to obtain much of its diet from foraging, when given appropriate areas to explore for food.

The Cayuga duck is listed as Threatened on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Conservation Priority List. This means there are fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the US, with ten or fewer primary breeding flocks, and they are globally endangered.