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The American Buff goose. (The homestead goose).

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat ...

That may still hold true today; however, it is certain that there are not as many geese getting fat for Christmas as there used to be. In modern times this bird has been finding its position on the menu replaced by poultry that responds more favorably to intensive agriculture such as chicken and turkey.

The goose, on the other hand, was made for sustainable agriculture. Hardy and self sufficient, it finds little place on the modern farm and, other than supplying some niche markets, it is now usually kept in small numbers more as an ornamental fowl than as proper livestock.

The American Buff goose is one of only two breeds of geese to be developed in North America (the other is the Pilgrim). The Buff was developed in the USA through crossing Pomeranian geese with (possibly) Embden and/or Brecon Buff geese. It is not known exactly when or where they were created but the breed was perfected by Oscar Grow, of Missouri, during the early 1900s and was admitted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1947. It was developed to be a superior general purpose farm fowl, giving a nice carcass, with a good growth rate, and producing a large number of eggs. Usually modern production poultry have been bred to have white feathers in order to give the consumer a cleaner looking carcass. In this case the buff coloring was employed because buff feathers are no more apparent than white feathers on a dressed carcass and, when bathing water is not available, they do not show as much dirt as white feathers giving a more attractive bird in the farmyard. This advantage was a major factor in using the American Buff to help develop buff varieties of other goose breeds, such as the Toulouse. They typically sport orange bills and feet although occasionally reddish-colored extremities do appear (a legacy from their Pomeranian ancestry).

"They are one of the most practical geese I've ever kept." says breeder George Piers of Fredericton, NB, Canada. "They Combine a quiet disposition with good productivity and are one of the best natural setters of any waterfowl." The Buff is indeed a productive bird. It is classed as a medium sized breed with ganders weighing 18 lbs. and geese, 16 lbs., and is capable of laying about 40 eggs per year.

Unfortunately breeders, like Mr. Piers, are becoming hard to find. The American Buff's history is short and fairly obscure. It was created to be a superior farm fowl just as intensive agriculture was taking off. The goose, which had an important role to play in subsistence agriculture, was left behind. A recent survey conducted by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy was successful in locating fewer than 500 American Buffs of breeding age with only one flock containing more than 50 birds. For this reason the ALBC currently classes the American Buff goose as "critical", considering it to be one of the priority breeds in immediate need of preservation.
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Author:Johnsen, Eric
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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