Dairy farmer Jody Jess was at the post office, mailing off genetic tests for her Kerry cattle when she noticed a stamp with animals on it.
“Where do you get the ideas for the stamps?” Jess remembers asking her postman. “‘They come from people like you,” he said.
Jess is among a handful of people who raise the Irish Kerry cattle, an endangered breed of dairy cow. There are about 45 Kerry cows in the U.S. and Canada, and about 250 in Ireland, she said.
“And it’s their national cattle,” she said.
Jess, whose farm is in Westminster, Mass., decided to fill out all the paperwork to propose a set of stamps highlighting livestock breeds.
She contacted her friend Emily Aho of Jaffrey to help write up the application.
“It’s so weird to be involved with the making of a stamp,” Aho said.
Aho operates the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center in Marlborough, where she tries to preserve the unique breed of pony that originated in Canada.
The stamp application was done and submitted last year. After months of waiting, they were told that the USPS accepted their plan.
The 10 commemorative stamps will highlight different heritage breeds, and though USPS accepted the livestock idea, the 10 stamps will not include Kerry cattle or Newfoundland ponies.
“This is done for all heritage breeders, because the people that are breeders they give their all,” Aho said.
The animals picked for the stamps are the mulefoot hog, Wyandotte chicken, milking Devon cow, Narragansett turkey, American mammoth jackstock donkey, cotton patch goose, San Clemente Island goat, American cream draft horse, Cayuga duck and Barbados blackbelly sheep.
The stamps will get their formal unveiling at a May ceremony at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon in Virginia.
“These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture,” a Livestock Conservancy statement on the stamps read.
Jess said it’s important to preserve the animals and their distinct genetic lines for future generations. The breeders do the hard work to keep the breed lines alive, and put the animals to work. Jess operates her small dairy farm to keep the cattle line going, and Aho is setting up working tasks for the ponies at the Marlborough farming property.
“We need to focus on how to save these breeds,” Jess said.
Both Jess and Aho will be at the ceremony next month, though they are going to leave their ponies and cows at home.