Saturday, August 15, 2009

Polled and Horned "white urus" in the British Isles -Important FACTS about the Chillingham herd of White Cattle & the Hamilton (Cadzow) Herd

The following are excerpts of an 1836 book from the highly respected and much published Sir William Jardine. These excerpts clearly establish the polled Park cattle (now known as British White) as not only a treasured heritage breed in the early 1800's, but also as a distinctly different body type over those of the horned Chillingham herd. The horned Chillingham cattle are purported to have been kept in isolation and the bloodlines pure through the 20th century (the works of other early 19th century authors have proven this to be a false statement, and Sir William also notes that at one point prior to 1836 there was only ONE horned Park animal left in the Chillingham herd.) "The stock at Chillingham was once reduced to a cow in calf. The produce fortunately proved a bull." Which Chillingham obviously used for cross-breeding in order to re-populate their herd, and it's a solid assumption that stock from the Hamilton/Cadzow herd were likely used as well in building their herd anew.


"The (once wild white cattle)most remarkable now are the parks of Chillingham in Northumberland, the property of Lord Tankerville, and that of Hamilton Palace in Lanarkshire, where the drawing for the accompanying illustration was made. This very ancient and peculiar breed of cattle has been long kept up with great care by the noble family of Hamilton in a chase in the vicinity of their splendid seat at Hamilton, in the Middle Ward of the county of Lanark. They are generally believed to be the remains of the ancient breed of white cattle which were found on the island when the Romans first visited it, and which they (the Romans) represent as then running wild in the woods."

*We are indebted to Robert Brown Esq Chamberlain. . . to His Grace the Duke of Hamilton for having procured for us the following interesting account:

". . .The chase in which they browse was formerly a park or forest attached to the Royal castle of Cadzow where the ancient British kings of Strathclyde and subsequently kings of Scotland used frequently to reside and to hold their courts. The oaks with which the park is studded over are evidently very ancient and many of them are of enormous size. Some of these are English oaks and are supposed to have been planted by King David, first Earl of Huntingdon about the year 1140. The chase is altogether of princely dimensions and appearance amounting to upwards of 1300 Scotch acres. The number of white cattle at present kept is upwards of sixty. Great care is taken to prevent the domestic bull from crossing the breed and if accidentally a cross should take place the young is destroyed. In their general habits they resemble the fallow deer more than any other domestic animal. Having been exposed without shade or covering of any sort to the rigours of our climate from time immemorial, they are exceedingly hardy and having never been caught or subjected to the sway of man they are necessarily peculiarly wild and untractable."

"Their affection for their young, like that of many other animals in a wild or half wild state, is excessive. When dropt they carefully conceal them among long grass or weeds in some brushwood or thicket and approach them cautiously twice or thrice a day for the purpose of supplying them with the necessary nourishment. On these occasions it is not a little dangerous to approach the place of retreat, the parent cow being seldom at any great distance and always attacking any person or animal approaching it with the utmost resolution and fury."

"The young calves when unexpectedly approached betray great trepidation by throwing their ears back close upon their necks and lying squat down upon the ground. When hard pressed they have been known to run at their keepers in a butting menacing attitude in order to force their retreat. The young are produced at all seasons of the year but chiefly in spring. The mode of catching the calves is to steal upon them whilst slumbering or sleeping in their retreat when they are a day or two old, and put a cloth over their mouths to prevent them crying, and then carry them off to a place of safety without the reach of the herd; otherwise, the cry of the calf would attract the dam and she, by loud bellowing, would bring the whole flock to the spot to attack the keeper in the most furious manner."

"These cattle are seldom seen scattering themselves indiscriminately over the pasture like other breeds of cattle, but are generally observed to feed in a flock. They are very wary of being approached by strangers, and seem to have the power of smelling them at a great distance. When any one approaches them unexpectedly they generally go off to a little distance to the leeward and then turn round in a body to smell him. In these gambols they invariably affect circles, and when they do make an attack, which is seldom the case, should they miss the object of their aim they never return upon it, but run straight forward without ever venturing to look back. The only method of slaughtering these animals is by shooting at them. When the keepers approach them for this purpose they seem perfectly aware of their danger, and always gallop away with great speed in a dense mass, preserving a profound silence and generally keeping by the sides of the fields and fences"

"The cows which have young in the meantime forsake the flock and repair to the places where their calves are concealed, where with flaming eyeballs and palpitating hearts they seem resolved to maintain their ground at all hazards The shooters always take care to avoid these retreats. When the object of pursuit is one of the older bulls of the flock the shooting of it is a very hazardous employment. Some of these have been known to receive as many as eleven bullets without one of them piercing their skulls. When fretted in this manner they often become furious and owing to their great swiftness and prodigious strength they are then regarded as objects of no ordinary dread"

"The White Urus or Hamilton breed of wild cattle differs in many respects from any other known breed and as compared with those kept at Chillingham Park, Northumberland by Lord Tankerville." (The Plate pictured here is of the Hamilton herd, drawn in 1835, note both horned, polled, and undermarked are represented, it's presented sideways as it is on google books, but worth turning your head or your monitor to the side to look at, as it is much sharper and clearer than the large copy I have on the Picture of the Day link.)

"They (the Hamilton white cattle) are larger and more robust in the general form of their bodies, and their markings are also very different. In the Tankerville breed the colour is invariably white, muzzle black, the whole of the inside of the ear and about one third of the outside from the tip downwards red. (they were black muzzled and red eared, no doubt mineral deficient) The horns are very fine white with black tips and the head and legs are slender and elegant. In the Hamilton Urus, the body is dun white, the inside of the ears, the muzzle, and the hoofs black; and the fore part of the leg from the knee downwards mottled with black. The cows seldom have horns, their bodies are thick and short, their limbs are stouter, and their heads much rounder than in the Tankerville breed. The inside or roof of the mouth is black or spotted with black. The tongue is black and generally tipped with black. It is somewhat larger in proportion than that of the common cow, and the high ridge on the upper surface near to the insertion of the tongue is also very prominent. It is observable that the calves that are off the usual markings are either entirely black or entirely white or black and white, but never red or brown."

"The beef like that of the Tankerville breed is marbled and of excellent flavour and the juice is richer and of a lighter colour than in ordinary butcher meat. The size of the smaller cows does not exceed fifteen stones, . . . weight but some of the larger sort especially the bulls average from thirty five to forty five stones. The circumstances of their breeding in, and of beng chased so much when any of them are to be shot, of being so frequently approached and disturbed by strangers, and of having been exposed so long to all the vicissitudes of the seasons and constantly browsing the same pasture, have no doubt contributed greatly to the deterioration of the breed and must have reduced them much in size and other qualities."

"The favourite haunt of these animals in ancient times seems to have been the Caledonia Sylva or Caledonian Forest . . . . dividing the Picts from the Scots and being well furnished with game, especially with fierce white bulls and kine(means cow). It was the place of both their huntings and of their greatest controversies."

"The Roman historians delight much to talk of the furious white bulls which the Forest of Caledonia brought forth."

"In the sixteenth century they seem to have become entirely extinct as a wild race, and as we learn from Meaner, were all slain except in that part which is called Cummernad. Another author informs us that ". . .thocht thir bulls were bred in sindry boundis of the Colidin Wod (Caledonian Forest today) now be continewal hunting and lust of insolent men they are destroyit in all parts of Scotland and nane of them left but allenerlie in Cumernald." At what period the present breed were introduced to the royal chase at Cadzow cannot now be well ascertained. It is well known that the Cummings were at one period proprietors of Cadzow and Cumbernauld; and it is likely that in their time the white cattle were in both places. But be that as it may, they have long been extirpated at Cumbernauld, while they have been preserved in great perfection at Hamilton."

". . . .The universal tradition in Clydesdale is that they have been at Cadzow from the remotest antiquity, and the probability is that they are a part remaining of the establishment of our ancient British and Scottish kings. At present they are objects of great curiosity, both to the inhabitants and to strangers visiting the place. During the troubles consequent on the death of Charles I and the usurpation of Cromwell, they were nearly extirpated; but a breed of them having been retained for the Hamilton family by Hamilton Dalzell and by Lord El phingstone at Cumbernauld they were subsequently restored in their original purity."

Note from Jimmie: This really informative book was found on Google books, and I've had to add punctuation (and no doubt missed some that are needed!) as it didn't retain this on a cut a paste of the excerpts, as well there are misspellings that haven't been corrected that are a part of the original work..............

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Did You Know? Cash for Clunkers $ Taken from Alternative Energy Stimulus Dollars

In the midst of this really bad economy, at least corn prices have backed off their record highs, though how much that's reflected in the price of a bag of feed at your local feed store is quite variable. Once a higher price point is reached, it takes a while for the retail products to see a matching decline, if ever. While I don't feed corn to my cattle, I'm very aware of how the rising price of corn and other grains used in ethanol production has negatively impacted the value of livestock in the USA.

One possible hint of relief from the disastrous impact of increasing corn ethanol production is the growing research and ingenuity in designing electric cars, and getting our vehicles and machinery out of the lead acid battery dark ages (Lead-acid batteries were invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté.) Also a possible source of relief from dependence on ethanol and fossil fuels is solar energy.

These collective alternative energy areas received much play in the days of the last presidential campaign. Theoretically, we now have an administration and Congress that has provided for the subsidy of these expensive new technologies (In most of Europe, the government has subsidized alternative energy growth with great success.) However, of the mere $6 Billion or so that was designated for alternative energy in the Trillion Dollar Stimulus Bill, Congress now proposes to riddle the original concept with red tape and wrinkles, and even worse they propose to take ~$2 Billion dollars of the $6 Billion, and divert those monies to the Cash for Clunkers money pit (IMO). Where is the logic there? I've not even noticed this focused on in the news!

Alternative energy companies are a natural to put folks back to work in places like Michigan where solar companies are already positioned and there is a ready labor force for production of solar panels and batteries, etc... Yet, this piddling bit of $6 Billion dollars for alternative energy has not only been NOT disbursed, it is now in danger of being given away to a program that pulls money out of your pocket and straight into the pocket of the automotive industry. In no way does this help the USA get off the ethanol track and put our corn back to use as Food for ourselves and our livestock.

August 10th Credit Suisse Alternative Energy Report:
Solar US market: Developments in the last week diminish the positive impact of the DOE's loan guarantee program for commercially viable solar PV technologies. There is a possibility that only ~$750mm is available to cover credit subsidy costs for commercially proven technologies (versus $6bb we thought 3 months ago). $2bb from the $6bb allocated for DOE loan guarantee program could be diverted to "cash for clunkers.”

Ethanol crush spreads have strengthened over the past few months, driven by lower natural gas and corn prices plus stable ethanol prices. Ethanol production volumes have been kept in check, helping to support ethanol pricing. Cash margins for ethanol producers have again turned positive.

Follow this link for the full Credit Suisse comments and analysis regarding the Cash for Clunkers ripping off the Alternative Energy sector.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Economics of AI Breeding vs. Natural Breeding in Beef Heifers

Suggested Guidelines for Beef Heifer Selection

**Moderate frame & milk - 425 lbs at Weaning, 600 lbs at Yearling, 700 lbs at breeding, Frame Score of 4
**Large frame & milk - 500 lbs at Weaning, 750 lbs at Yearling, 875 lbs at breeding, Frame Score of 5

"The University of Minnesota maintained records and summarized the net profit or loss for heifers sold during a developmental period during a three-year period. Heifers culled on the basis of pelvic area, average daily gain, reproductive tract scores, disposition, or structural soundness at the time of the prebreeding exams and finished in a feedlot had a 3-year average net profit of $9, whereas heifers diagnosed as nonpregnant shortly after the breeding season were sold for a net loss of $86. The loss for pregnant heifers that were then diagnosed nonpregnant after wintering on native pasture and sold at a sale barn was $133."

"These figures indicate the importance of identifying heifers that will not breed during the breeding season and culling those heifers before they become an economic liability. Heifers that were diagnosed pregnant during the breeding season were allocated to three groups: first-service AI, second-service AI, or natural mating. Average profits were $163 for first-service AI heifers, $139 for second-service heifers, and $83 for heifers naturally mated. These figures take into account all synchronization costs."

"Therefore, the advantage of AI over natural mating is certainly evident from these analyses, but without sound data these results could not have been noticed. In fact, many people would (and still do) shy away from AI because of the initial costs associated with synchronization, management, and an AI technician. Nonetheless, these results would encourage a producer to seriously consider AI, realizing that the profit potential is far greater than just using natural mating.

Net Profit or Loss Associated with the Sale of Heifers at Various Stages of Reproduction . . . follow the link in the article title above for the remainder of the cost analysis provided by this Cattle Network article.

Source: Steve Boyles OSU Extension Beef Team

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pending Legislation That Will Impact the Family Farm and Rural Landowners

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) email update yesterday included a call to members to contact their Congressman during this August recess to express their Support and Opposition to critical legislation that will have a huge impact on our economic lives as cattle raisers. I've included links where I could find them, to the actual text of the bills at issue. Perusing the actual text of the bills is enlightening, and something I think we all should do more often in these days of minimal debate and rapid passage of bills which will effect our lives in both Texas and the USA.

The Affordable Food and Fuel for America Act ". . .would phase out government subsidies for corn-based ethanol over five years and promote the commercial development of second generation biofuels. This legislation would force corn-based ethanol to become commercially viable without the assistance of government dollars and eliminate competition with other commodities that use corn"

In 2008, I blogged on the devastation that I percieve has been and will continue to occur in the USA as a result of the government's blind and dumb subsidy of corn ethanol. Not only is it forever changing the landscape and air quality of states such as Nebraska and Minnesota, it is forever changing the economics of our food supply. In particular to cattle raisers, it has increased the input cost of feedlots to a point of zero profitability at times, and thus the value of our feeder calf crops at market is reduced.

The Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act(couldn't find a direct link to this bill) ". . .would exempt working farm and ranch land from the death tax, as long as the land is kept in production agriculture. The bill also provides estate tax relief for land under qualified conservation easements." I could find no link to the text of this bill, instead I found references to it being from the 2007/2008 legislative sessions. TSCRA's summation of it's benefits to the continuation of family farms, rather than their liquidation due to death, makes it clear this is a bill we should all want passed.

The Clean Water Restoration Act ". . .would expand federal control over all wet areas within Texas including stock tanks, drainage ditches, ponds, small and intermittent streams, creek beds, playa lakes and mud holes." The impact of this legislation on every day life in rural America is boundless, and would mire the average family farm, the average hunter or fisherman, in red tape and legalities that will forever change our historical and current concept of private land ownership and freedom to live as we wish on our land.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Cap & Trade Bill) ". . .will drastically increase the costs of fuel, electricity, feed, fertilizer, equipment and other production costs necessary to run a successful ranching business. The costs to ranchers far outweigh any benefits this legislation offers."

I absolutely need to read and try to understand for myself the impact of this bill. It is somehow still shrouded in mystery to me despite my obsession with the news. One has the sense that it is the ultimate boogey-man of bills, without even understanding the actual mechanics of its impact on our economy today and in the future. One thing that is abundantly clear, is major corporations such as General Electric stand to benefit hugely from the passage of this bill.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tom Sawyer sired British White Bull Calf - Updated

J.West's Zeus in March 2011
A wonderul British White cow is my Wanda Mae, officially named Halliburton Boopsie, and I likely should have just called her Boopsie, it does fit her personality. She was one of my original British White heifers and she was nicknamed for a childhood friend who wasn't the most popular or the most beautiful girl in my neighborhood - she was more importantly the most trusted. Wanda Mae gladly took in my Midge doll for safe keeping forever and always when a very bad lady was going to throw her away. I will always remember her fondly for taking care of my Midge.

My cow, Wanda Mae, is as equally unforgettable as my childhood friend. Wanda Mae is a fertile myrtle, a feed efficient femme fatale, a carcass queen, and the most gentle British White cow I've ever encountered in any herd in the USA or the United Kingdom. Why am I talking about Wanda Mae this evening? Well she gave me a surprise Sunday morning. A bouncing bull calf was mewling and hobbling around and announcing his brave entry into his new world.

Grew up to be J.West's Zeus, a working British White bull
I had noticed Wanda Mae looked like she was putting milk on, but she keeps a nice udder in between calves, and she stays fat, and with her deep well sprung rib area she always is mistaken for being pregnant by visitors when she's not! But I poked her udder and squeezed the nipples about a week before, wondering just what was going on. Nonetheless, I was surprised.

Fortunately, I make a habit of recording when any bull jumps a fence, plows through a fence, or seems to magically fly over a fence. In this case, it was Tom Sawyer who was the culprit, and sure enough Wanda Mae is one of three cows jotted down as possibly cycling when he made his pasture break to the girls.

Follow this link for a very short video of this handsome Tom Sawyer sired bull calf. He measured 27.5 inches, which puts him weighing about 67 pounds at birth. The video is from this afternoon, and he is now three days old. Most three day old calves in other breeds will absolutely not let you fool with them. This little guy is above and beyond friendly. I couldn't take a single stretch of video that didn't find him walking straight to me and my camera.

In this clip at the very end his Dam, Wanda Mae, puts her nose right in my camera as well. That's gentle. Make no mistake that the British White breed is truly gentle; from the day they hit the ground they have a curious and friendly nature.