Friday, March 7, 2008

Blanco Orejinegro & Bridel Cattle Farm in the Cauca Valley of Columbia

The unique markings of the polled British White, those eye-catching black ears and contrasting pure white coat, are found in a few other breeds of great antiquity around the globe. I have long been fascinated by the global reach of these markings and their antiquity. It seems to me there is a hint of a story, a long and fascinating one, in the wide-ranging presence of these markings and the absolute reverence that is held for the cattle.

One of those breeds is the Blanco Orejinegro (BON), and this very special Colombian breed has a strong future now with the Bridel cattle farm in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, which is dedicated to the preservation of this native Colombian breed. According to Jacques Diouf in August of 2007, ". . .the Blanco Orejinegro cattle breed, known for its longevity, tolerance to high altitudes, and resistance to parasites, is under threat; only 260 animals of this breed remain."
In a genetic study dated November 2003, the BON was found to be quite unique and differentiated from other heritage breeds in Colombia:
"BON is peculiar in that it lacks the most common T3 sequence seen in European cattle and in all the other criollo breeds (cattle breeds of Latin America) examined (Col1). Furthermore, five of the six T3 lineages observed in BON are unique to this breed, including the only sequences with transversions. The genetic distinctness of BON is also manifest in the PCA of CR sequence frequency . At the phenotypic level BON is unique among the breeds examined in having a white coat and black ears (Blanco Orejinegro means "white with black ears")."

Without a doubt, I can't tell you just what T3's and traversions are, but it doesn't surprise me that the BON stood out as genetically unique cattle individuals among the criollo breeds. The study referenced is worth a look, as besides the technical nature of the genetic testing, it provides good discussion on the possible pathways of today's domestic cattle to the Americas.

The following is an excerpt from Bridel's home page, translated into English:

"Bridel is a cattle farm, 100% proud of being Colombian, located in the Cauca Valley. It is dedicated to rescue the breeding, and the strengthening of the Full-Blood Colombian cattle breed " Blanco Orejinegro " as genetic source, in order to explore its hybrid vigor and take advantage of its adaptation to our tropical environment.

We cannot lose these 500 years of natural intervention.

The “Blanco Orejinegro => BON ” is a cattle breed in danger of extinction, therefore it's conservation is our number one priority as a company.

The advantages, characteristics and genetic resources of the BON breed are numerous and are usually under appreciated by the majority of the farms and the Colombian public due to the lack of understanding and marketing of the breed, since other foreign breeds are advertised and have higher commercial reach. Our Cattle farm was formed with special criteria of a company to guarantee its survival and maintenance throughout the years.

The BON has low production costs, great genetic value, fertility, resistance to the environment, adaptability, quality marble meat, and the ability to be cross-bred with other cattle breeds."

Bridel hasn't been wasting any time in ensuring the future of this endangered Colombian heritage breed. Care is taken to ensure the blood line remains pure, with BON Fullblood females always bred to BON Fullblood bulls. At the same time, Bridel is very conscious of the fact that the hardy nature and quality of the BON breed has much value to offer the commercial cattle farms of Colombia, and it is perhaps that value that will ensure the BON's continued existence.

Bridel has an ongoing cross-breeding program with the Brahman, Holstein, and Wagyu breeds. Documenting the hybrid vigor of calves, the quality of the carcass, and the quality of the resulting replacement heifers is the right path to ensuring that future generations continue to recognize the value of the beautiful Blanco Orejinegro cattle breed.

A visit to the Bridel web site is a must -- the Gallery of Photos is filled with beautiful scenery of the cattle and the Colombian countryside. After having a look you may well find yourself wishing for a Colombian vacation so you can visit this inspiring Cauca Valley cattle farm of green, mountainous pastures and quiet contentment.