Thursday, April 14, 2011

Newlyweds from the Netherlands visit a British White cattle herd in Southeast Texas

Mieke and Peter, with Carter hamming it up a little.........

In late March my herd of British White cattle received international visitors from the Netherlands.  All my girls behaved themselves and much enjoyed being admired.  A lovely young Dutch couple honeymooning in Texas made the ranch an afternoon stop on their exploration of our fine state.

A couple of weeks prior I received an email from Mieke, inquiring if she and her soon to be husband Peter, might visit the ranch.  Of course, I was quite delighted to say yes and found it a very nice compliment to my British White herd and my efforts to promote the breed via the internet. 

Mieke and Peter make their home in the far south of the Netherlands in the province of North Brabant which borders the country of Belgium.  The municipality their village lies within is Sint-Michielsgestel, and it was curious to learn that Gestel means high, dry, sandy land -- which is a pretty apt description of the land of this ranch as well.  Fortunately, when the newlyweds visited the grass was green and the scent of clover was in the air -- now, barely two weeks later, that is long gone and we are super dry and hot and the sand is blowing to the next county with strong winds.

Peter and Mieke standing by the "Wedding Tree"
Mieke is an Event Planner, this is a field of university study that I was unfamiliar with, but have since learned is a growing field here in the USA as well. Mieke put her organizational skills to good work in planning their honeymoon, and Peter was more than happy to oblige that schedule behind the wheel as they drove across the state of Texas and even as far north as Oklahoma City. 

Peter is a cattle trader in the Netherlands, and Mieke arranged their travels in Texas around visiting ranches and seeing cattle, and that is a mighty nice thing for such an elegant young lady to do for her new husband.  Mieke and Peter covered a lot of territory -- from a private tour of the King Ranch to the far south of Texas, to all the way north to the Oklahoma Stockyards to attend that renowned cattle auction. 

 Cattle auctions are no longer held in the Netherlands due to foot and mouth disease concerns.
"After the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 strict regularizations for the collection and export of cattle were passed in the Netherlands. Most of these directives are still in force today. This practically makes the organisation of breeding cattle auctions impossible." (source link)
 More recently, the cattle population has been threatened with Blue Tongue disease -- and the tight controls already implemented, as well as a comprehensive vaccination program, is hoped to have the Netherlands officially Blue Tongue free this year, as no cases have been found since 2009.  Blue Tongue is hurtful to any catttle operation, but for a dairy focused on milk production, the significant drop in milk production of an infected cow hits their bottom line, whether they eventually lose the cow to the disease or not.  See this UK Telegraph article for an excellent word picture of the state of Germany in 2007 at the onset of the Blue Tongue outbreak in Europe, and this UK Telegraph article: Blue Tongue disease: A Killer in the Countryside.

Rather than have a mixing of cattle from various herds at auction, cattlemen such as Peter go to each dairy farm to negotiate their purchases, and the calves are transported directly to the facility Peter operates.  This type of approach to cattle buying and handling goes a long way to assist with locating from what particular herd any disease originates, but does hamper the normal fixing of market price from a gathering of buyers and sellers at an auction. 

The dairy business quite famously dominates the cattle industry in the Netherlands, and the calves raised for beef originate with dairy herds.  The quite valuable dairy heifers are retained, but the bull calves at about two weeks old are removed from their dams and sold to cattlemen such as Peter for predominantly veal production.

Elvis coming up to say hello to the Newlyweds . . .

Mieke directed me to the web site of the Dutch-owned VanDrie Group, which is actually the largest producer of veal in the world, and VanDrie's web site demonstrates through many photos the types of calves Peter buys and the feeding process and housing facilities that are commonly used to rear the young bull calves.

When we started our walk among my British White cows, the first group we looked at were the heavy bred cows by the house.  Immediately Peter was struck by how quiet they all were.  It was early afternoon and they were mostly lying around and Peter was able to walk up to them with ease -- and "easy" was the comment Peter made, that they were very "easy" cows.  That very simple and succinct first impression of the breed will always stay with me, as it really does fully express the British White breed -- they are easy in most every way.

As we walked around different pastures I took some video of Mieke and Peter and it is presented below.  I hope you enjoy watching it, and I send my best wishes to this smiling young couple for a long and happy life.

(Note:  If you would like to view the video in 720 HD or on YouTube, make the adjustment in the lower right hand corner of the video clip still......)