The British White Breed
"There were fifty white red-eared kine (cow) there and each cow had a white calf at her side. The King had ordered Art, his Steward, to drive them away. The King of Ireland's Son watched Art and his men trying to do it. But no sooner were the strange cattle put out at one side of the field than they came back on the other. Then down came Maravaun, the King's Councillor. He declared they were enchanted cattle, and that no one on Ireland's ground could put them away. So in the seven-acre field the cattle stayed." Fedelma - The Enchanter's Daughter
The British White Cattle Breed has much to offer the cattle producer in terms of both economics and genuine pleasure in the care-taking of this gentle, beautiful, ancient and immortalized breed. British White cattle embody all traits of economic importance to cattle producers -- excellent fertility, hardiness to disease, calving ease, maternal instincts, abundant milk, and a long-lived calving life. Their white hides give them superior heat tolerance and their black (or red) hooves are sound and sturdy.
Perhaps the most distinguishing economic trait of the British White cattle breed is their unusually curious and docile nature, well represented by the girls pictured just below who had to have a look at what I was doing sitting on the ground in their space. Visitors to British White herds often comment that their calm demeanor is surely due to the "time we must spend with them". But, breeders of this very special, uniquely beautiful, ancient breed know different. Their gentleness begins before birth -- it is inherent in their genetic make-up. From almost the day of a calf's birth, breeders of British White cattle can many times judge the likely temperament of their calves, and the range is generally from about a foot of flight zone to the maximum temperament of one so gentle and curious they come to you in the pasture.
How does a gentle nature translate into one of economic importance to a cattle producer? Every scientific research report that one comes upon studying the relationship between docile calves in the feedlot to carcass tenderness, results in the conclusion that the calmer the feeder calf the more tender the carcass.
Even half blood calves sired by a full pedigree British White bull or out of an actual full pedigree British White cow are generally much gentler than the 'other' breed parent who won't let you approach at all. Their offspring are much calmer with a greatly reduced flight zone. It is wise to inquire about commercial crosses being passed off as British White/White Park.
An important point to be made here is that in contrast to their generally docile nature with humans, they will both singly and as a group make swift and effective attack on predators such as coyotes and buzzards that threaten their calves; or even your blind, geriatric dog (my old Fred) if he picks his way across a cattle guard in search of you and instead walks straight into a calf newly born to a heifer.
They seem to have the ability to better judge what is a threat to them and their youngsters above that of other breeds; and humans are pretty much not perceived as threatening. British White herds don't scatter on the approach of strange humans, most will even remain lying down and disinterested.
Of great economic importance to cattle producers is the actual carcass quality coming out of the Feedlot. Besides the established correlation between docility and carcass tenderness mentioned above -- today there is DNA testing readily available to help identify animals that will most likely produce calves with superior carcass traits for tenderness and marbling. The DNA testing accomplished in 2006 and 2007 of approximately 80% of the herd of J. West Cattle Co. reflected the results outlined below. Since then a sampling of 35 anchor cattle in the herd were tested for the new Feed Efficiency genetic marker, and the results were excellent, with the average animal carrying 6 of the 8 markers for Feed Efficiency, including two superior females with 8 of 8 markers for Feed Efficiency.
100% are carriers of the T1/Calpistatin gene for Carcass Tenderness, and of those . . .
64% are Homozygous for T1 (have two copies of the T1 gene, and thus will always pass on at a minimum ONE copy of the gene to their calves)
9% are Heterozygous for the T2 Tenderness gene.
80% are carriers of the T3/Calpain gene for Carcass Tenderness, and of those . . .
27% are Homozygous for the T3/Calpain Tenderness gene.
45% of this British White herd are heterozygous for the Carcass Marbling gene identified as QG1 with GeneStar, . . .
8% are Homozygous for the QG1 Carcass Marbling gene,
11% are Heterozygous for the QG3 Carcass Marbling gene,
49% are carriers of the QG4 Carcass Marbling gene, and of those . . .
41% are Heterozygous for the QG4, and 8% are Homozygous for the QG4 Marbling gene.
Besides the important economic traits of the British White breed, there is another trait that is unmatched by any other breed -- their extraordinarily striking beauty, and of course I realize that is a matter of personal opinion. British White Cattle are predominantly white with black points. Often, there are scattered spots of black along their sides, and typically this is accompanied by very strong color points about the nose, eyes, ears, teats, and lower front legs, which are the basic black color points expected in the breed. Their unique beauty is always a source of comment by visitors, as is their calm demeanor -- both traits that most likely inspired and perpetuated ancient Celtic lore and legend that immortalized the British White 'milk white cow' and predate the written word. Much of the ancient lore and legend makes reference to the occurrence of the red-pointed calf that is born in otherwise black-pointed herds; this occurs in British White herds today as in ancient days and is always one of surprise and remark. As well, a small percentage of calves are born with a color-sided line-backed pattern, and this has occurred throughout both the horned and polled white park cattle's documented history. See Breed History for additional information on their ancient history in the British Isles.
The British White cattle breed has much to offer the cattle producer in terms of both economics and genuine pleasure in the care-taking of this gentle, beautiful, ancient and immortalized breed.