SVF Foundation

About SVF

About SVF

About SVF Foundation

SVF Foundation preserves germplasm (semen and embryos) from rare and endangered breeds of food and fiber livestock. 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. 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. This library of frozen material is vital to the protection of the world’s food supply.

SVF also offers numerous educational programs and opportunities, including: K-12 school field trips, large animal reproductive studies for fourth-year veterinary students and undergrad internships. Learn more about our education programs.

Rare or heritage breeds of livestock carry valuable and irreplaceable traits such as: resistance to disease and parasites, heat tolerance, mothering ability, forage utilization, and unique flavor and texture qualities. A particular breed that now dominates the marketplace may find its future jeopardized for any number of reasons. For instance, highly inbred and genetically uniform breeds, which dominate the industry, could be decimated by a serious infectious disease. Recall the Irish potato famine: A single variety of potato, which sustained a population, was devastated by blight. Alternatively, consumer preference could shift toward different flavors, textures or agricultural practices. With the lack of diversity in today’s animal agriculture, we are at tremendous risk.

Many people are familiar with a similar form of germplasm preservation—seed banks. These collections are critical to food security and the protection of genetic diversity in plants.  Although there are numerous seed banks throughout the world, little effort has been made to collect germplasm for rare and endangered breeds of livestock.

SVF was founded in 1999 by Mrs. Dorrance H. Hamilton and is a non-profit operating foundation. The Foundation is located in Newport, Rhode Island, on two historic properties totaling 45 acres. The main campus was formerly Arthur Curtiss James’ Surprise Valley Farm (or Swiss Village to the locals), with an adjacent 11-acre site, formerly part of Hammersmith Farm. The facility’s 15 buildings include exquisitely renovated animal buildings, a procedures laboratory, an infirmary, a cryo-room, offices and residences. Read more about Swiss Village and its history.

Due to strict biosecurity, SVF is not typically open to the public. Our protocols are not only for the protection of the livestock on the farm, but also to protect the germplasm collection from inadvertent pathogen cryopreservation. We do open our doors once every June for a tour of the grounds and to educate the public about endangered breeds and cryo-preservation.

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