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Jeff Hyatt, of Patterson, N.Y., president of the Putnam County Antique Machinery Association,...

SOUTHEAST, N.Y. -- There are about 500 Siberian tigers in the wild today. The best guess for Randall Lineback cattle is around 200. But because these cows are a domestic breed, it's hard to convince people to think in terms of endangered species.

Slideshow: Click here to see a slideshow of today's pictures.

 

"Certainly, the general public wouldn't think so," Don Schrider, communications director of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which lists the Randall breed as "critically endangered," said Tuesday.

There's a herd of seven Randall Lineback cattle -- with their distinctive mottled black sides and broad white line across their backs -- at the Tilly Foster Farm here.

There's also a small herd of American Jacob sheep, which the livestock breed conservancy lists as a threatened species, with fewer than 5,000 in the world today.

Both herds will be introduced to the public Saturday.

By next year, there may be more heritage species at the farm -- Pilgrim geese, Indian runner ducks, American Mammoth Jack donkeys.

Another rare collection -- of antique American farm equipment and tractors -- may be installed at the farm, as well.

"We're working


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to preserve Putnam County's history," said Jeff Hyatt, president the Putnam County Antique Machinery Association, who has started a small farm machinery museum at the farm and hopes to see a full collection of antique tractors there.

 

The animals come from the farm of George Whipple, an investment banker, philanthropist and farmer who lives in Kent, N.Y.

"I'm a 10-generation farmer, although we may have skipped one or two generations here and there," Whipple said.

Wanting to preserve some heritage breeds of domestic animals, Whipple started to raise them at his farm. Several years ago, he started discussing using the Tilly Foster Farm to bring them to the public.

"We want the Tilly Foster Farm to be a world-class collection of endangered domestic animals," Whipple said Tuesday.

Such animals are important for several reasons, Schrider said. For one, industrialized American agribusiness has increasingly depended on a few lines of a few species. Preserving genetic diversity becomes increasingly important in the face of that business.

The animals are also part of American history -- Randall Lineback cattle were the cows that farmers used in New England in Colonial times.

The breeds are also hardy, gentle and easy to care for.

"Owning a Holstein is like owning a Ferrari," Schrider said. "They need a lot of care. These older breeds are like owning dad's old pickup. They're reliable and they'll get you where you want to go."

Putnam County leaders approved Whipple's plans. The county had acquired the 200-acre farm in 2002 and designated it as a public open space and conservation area.

Deputy county executive John Tully said Monday that other proposals, including one to develop the farm into an equestrian center, would have been too expensive. In comparison, Whipple's proposal would not cost the taxpayers anything extra.

"The county will do all the ongoing maintenance," Tully said. "We'll be involved."

"The hope is that it will be self-sufficient and free to the public," Whipple said. "I'm not quite sure how we'll do that yet."

But Hyatt -- who at age 16 got a 1933 Plymouth coupe as his first car -- is a master of repair and renovation. One of his prized possessions is a 1890s well drilling rig that he's meticulously restored.

"We've got access to a collection of antique farm equipment worth $1 million," he said. "We just have to renovate the bigger barn. If we can raise $50,000 for the materials, I've got the guys who will volunteer the work."

"We're going to need donations," Hyatt said. "But so far, it's looking pretty good."

Contact Robert Miller

at bmiller@newstimes.com

or at (203) 731-3345