Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Wild White Cattle of Cadzow and Chartley - A 1903 New Zealander's Report

What follows is an article from 1903 reporting on the status of  the "wild white cattle" of the United Kingdom.  It should be noted that neither herd,  nor the breed in general, is referred to as being either horned or polled.  It is however well documented that both horned and polled 'wild white cattle' were in these old herds.  In 1918 the Park Cattle Society was formed, and a registry inclusive of both horned and polled Park Cattle was established and maintained until 1946.  And of course the quite 'wild' notion that the wild white cattle were descended from the Urus, a speculative fiction perpetuated by the Chillingham's for hundreds of years, was very much still alive and well -- but clearly found somewhat of an amusing notion.

Wild White Cattle.
Otago Witness , 1903

 "In view of the fact that only a few specimens of the original wild white cattle which at one time roamed the forest solitudes of these countries are now left in the United Kingdom, it is regrettable to learn that the herd of those animal's which has been in existence for many years past at Chartley is threatened, with extinction. Some years ago, owing to an outbreak of rinderpest, the herd of these wild white cattle kept by the Duke of Hamilton at Cadzow (see 1835 print below) was reduced to less than a dozen, but, thanks to the adoption of special measures to facilitate breeding operations among them, tho stock again multiplied steadily until the herd once, more reached its original dimensions. The rapidity with which the Cadzow herd recovered itself in that crisis is rendered specially interesting at the present juncture because of the corresponding position into which the herd at Chartley Castle has fallen.

Some time ago a number of the animals in this herd were found suffering from a destructive disease, and before the progress of the malady could be arrested a good many fatal cases had occurred. According to the latest reports the total number of wild cattle at Chartley at the present time falls short of a dozen; it is therefore to be hoped that, as in the case of the Cadzow Park cattle, such steps will be taken as will prevent the extinction of the herd, and the consequent disappearance of one of the most interesting links between the present and the past of stock-breeding in these countries.

The origin of these and the other wild cattle left in England and Scotland has been much speculated upon, but no very definite conclusion has ever been reached.  They are small in size, and there is little to encourage the belief that they are the descendants of the great Urus that was once plentiful enough in this part of the world. But, whatever their lineage, it would be unfortunate if they were allowed to die out, and with them so many interesting associations.

Apropos of these wild white cattle, it is interesting to learn that in browsing on what may be described as their native wilds, they always keep close together, never scattering or straggling, a peculiarity which does not belong to any domesticated cattle. The wild cows are also remarkable for their systematic manner of feeding. At different periods of the year their tactics are different, but by those acquainted with their habits they are always found about the same part of the forest at the same hour of the day. In the height of summer they always bivouac for the night towards the northern extremity of their confines; from this point they start in the morning and browse to tho southern extremity, and return at sunset to their old rendezvous, always feeding close together."

1835 Elegant engraved image titled, "The White Uru or Hamilton (Cadzow) Breed of Wild Cattle."
NOTE: In this 1835 image you see both a horned example of the Park cattle breed, along with a Polled example of the breed; as well, the young calf is what we consider to be under-marked today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Growth Pattern of Bulls - When are they 'Fully Matured'? At what age do they express their muscling potential?

          I always enjoy calls that come from folks interested in learning more about the British White breed.  Oftentimes, the questions asked of me leave me pondering the question to myself of how I can better answer those questions next time around.  Recently, the question/observation was posed that full muscle expression in bulls wouldn't generally show itself until they were further on the road to maturity.  I was hesitant in that regard, as my first thought was that by yearling age the muscling attributes of a bull should be well visible.  I found myself looking back through photos of various bulls, particularly the ones that I've seen grow to maturity myself or via photographs, which really amounts to just a handful of bulls.

After looking through those photos, I came to the conclusion that the muscling potential really ought to be clear by yearling age under optimal nutrition for the frame score of the animal in question.  And even during the bull's months as a calf at his dam's side, the muscling potential is apparent.  Most often, if the animal is expressing more muscle definition than its peers, it's noticeable; if much less definition than the others, that's fairly noticeable as well.  Pictured to the left is an Elvis sired bull calf that did receive his sires muscling in the rump; he grew up to be J.West's Big Mac, and was the most like his sire, Elvis, of any of Elvis' sons to date, including his good-natured disposition.
That said, without a doubt as the bull matures that muscle expressed in youth continues to increase tremendously as the years pass -- but the basic structure, the basic muscle expression remains the same.  What follows are some photos of my senior herd bull, J.West's Elvis.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate calf photos of him, I didn't take as many pictures back then and didn't have the benefit of a digital camera.  Nonetheless, from the time he was born, he was quite a distinctively made and handsome youngster; thus the name Elvis that was given him. 

I've also included the different weights taken on Elvis over the years, which illustrate quite well for me the transformation of my good-natured, short and chunky, handsome bull calf  into the mature and hefty Frame Score 2/3 herd bull he is today.  Elvis' hip height measure was taken by Gerald Fry when Elvis was just over 48 months of age and he stood 51" over his hook bones.  This puts Elvis at somewhere between a Frame Score 2 and Frame Score 3, depending on charting sources. 

J.West's Elvis was born March 10, 2003, with a recorded birth weight of 76 lbs. using a taped chest measure.  It's possible it was lower, as I didn't hold the tape snugly back then as is recommended for the best weight estimate.  Elvis was weaned in fall of 2003 with an actual wean weight of 438 lbs on the 28th of November.  His dam, Halliburton Adios, a Popeye daughter, weighed 846 lbs on that same day and she was almost exactly 3 years old.   Elvis was her second calf. 

The next weight I can locate on Elvis is from November 12, 2004, and this photo of Elvis' Rump is from November of 2004 -- at 20 months of age.  His weight was 856 lbs., practically a doubling in size over the prior 12 months.  Unfortunately, I can't locate any other photos of him from this group, it predates my switch to a digital camera.  Hopefully, I'll locate the Kodak disc one of these days that the photo came from.

My next actual weight on Elvis was Feb. 16, 2005, at 23 months old, and he had reached 980 lbs., a gain of about 40 lbs. a month, and not bad with  zero grain concentrates that winter.  The photos below were taken in May of 2005 when Elvis was about 26 months old.  He was fully expressing his  muscling - but still had much, much growing ahead of him.

Unfortunately, I don't have another recorded weight on Elvis until May 15, 2008.  At 5 years of age he had reached a weight of 1715 lbs.  The next weight recorded was on December 18, 2009, at what I'm sure is his peak mature weight of  1785 lbs.  He is pictured below at about this same time.  And if you compare the photo below and the one above, the muscle expression is very much the same, just extraordinarily increased.

The growth of Elvis from a 2 year old to his 6th year can  better seen in this March 2009 video of Elvis below.  He does seem to have expressed more muscling with age, he is almost twice as heavy, but he has also laid on a lot of fat at this stage, which can add to perceived muscling in most mature bulls.  In Elvis's case, there is definitely muscle defining him in every way, with the fat cover adding to his natural gifts, although he has lost that bloom of youth and the sharpness of his muscling - I think he perhaps should have to work a bit harder!  Elvis is a 100% grassfed bull, he has high genetic Feed Efficiency, and there's never been a day when he was not well fit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A British White Breeder in Texas Breaking New Ground in Grassfed Beef

     The Gold Standard in grass fed beef these days is acquiring certification from both the American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved.  Here in Texas we have a British White breeder who has achieved both certifications -- the Lazy A Ranch in Bellville, Texas, owned and operated by Margot and Bill Heard.  The Lazy A Ranch was established by the Allen (Buddy) and Ethel Carruth family, and was almost 1000 acres at one time. A herd of Santa Gertrudis cows remains with the original brand.

     Margot Heard has a vision, and she has the steadfastness to work toward that vision of providing excellence in healthy grassfed beef for the Houston market.  The Lazy A Ranch  in Bellville has had Santa Gertrudis cattle running on its grasslands for many years, Buddy Carruth began showing Santa Gertrudis cattle in 1953 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  The descendants of Buddy Carruth's fine cattle still graze the pastures of the Lazy A in Bellville.  But along with this King Ranch developed breed, Santa Gertrudis, that have a healthy dose of old Shorthorn genetics running through their veins -- the Lazy A is now home to a growing herd of British White cattle.

     Margot has her first crop of Santa Gertrudis/British White cross calves on the ground this spring, and a growthier, healthier bunch of calves you can hardly find for many long Texas miles distant.  The Heard's chose to use British White bulls on the Santa Gertrudis herd that they obligingly purchased along with the ranch that the cows have for many generations called home.  Their breed of choice for the long term is British White, the ancient polled Park Cattle of the British Isles; but in the meantime, they are working with their Santa Gertrudis females within the BWCAA breed-up program, along with running a good sized starter herd of British White cows.

     The photos you see here are from a visit to the Lazy A this past May.  Were it not for my elderly dog having a really bad day, I would have much more and no doubt better shots of Margot's spring calves!  But Fred was a real needy old guy that afternoon, and it is quite a trick to take video, much less still shots, clutching a shrillingly whiny old fart like my Fred can be.  But I digress!  It was a beautiful herd of healthy and fit cattle with many cross bred calves at foot, and the photos here were pulled as stills from my flip video camera.

     What has intrigued Margot, and most certainly myself as well, is the very large percentage of British White cross calves that bear quite classic British White markings.  Having crossed with black Angus many years ago, I'd say that about 60% of all my cross bred calves were typical milk white with black point calves, and the remainder were line-backed.

    In Margot's herd, there is a predominance, approaching likely 90%, that are classic British White marked calves, as well as some with red points, despite using British White bulls with black points.  Margot is interested in exploring the genetic relationship of her Gert/BW cross calves via their Shorthorn history, given the large numbers of cross-bred calves exhibiting British White color and markings.  It is a clearly accepted fact in historical documents that the Shorthorn was developed long ago from the polled Park Cattle of the time, or what is known today as British White.

     Margot was running a young British White bull, Aries (pictured left), with the Gerts for several weeks, not really anticipating that he was in any way big enough to really take care of the job, and anxiously looking about for a respectable British White bull of maturity.  Well, she was instead surprised to find this Spring that her young, and even today quite moderately short of frame, Aries, had done his darnedest, and his darnedest was pretty good. (See photo above right for an Aries sired calf.) She has several calves sired by Aries, and they are very thick growthy calves that catch one's eye.  If I weren't juggling too many herd bulls right now, I'd have packed Aries home with me in the blink of time it takes for a determined bull to lay down a fence and proceed!  Aries is now offered for sale by the Lazy A, so give Margot a call for more details on this quite fine young bull.

     The next set of calves Margot had this spring were sired by Tyson, pictured left, a British White bull with excellence in Tenderness genes quite hard to find, having 5 of the 6 known genetic markers for Tenderness.  Tyson is about a Frame Score 5 British White bull, and that's just a guess, not having actually measured him in a while, and he of course settled the remainder of the Gerts in short order.  The calves from Tyson were younger than Aries, but certainly exhibited very good confirmation and color, and they are all the napping younger ones in the photos included here.  I'll look forward to hearing from Margot how all the calves grow off between now and weaning time in the fall.  The photo below is one of the very few Tyson sired bull calves that have been born.  This bull, Tag #40, is out of a Popeye daughter, and has shown outstanding growth this spring.  Tyson, like his sire, J.West's King Cole, has a tendency to throw mostly heifers.

     Tyson is a maternal half brother to my original herd bull, DFTX Watson, always fondly called just 'Doc' by myself and his original owner, Bob Stanley, a very fine and honest man who passed away a few years back.  Tyson has much of Doc's incredibly gentle nature, but at the same time he has more stature than Doc, coming from his paternal grandsire Halliburton Colonel and paternal granddam HRH Arlene. Three of  Arlene's daughters are foundation females in my herd today.  Look for Margot to have some very nice British White females sired by Tyson and perpetuating his clean confirmation and Tenderness genes.

     The Lazy A Ranch in Bellville has laid the ground work for producing and marketing grass fed beef.  As a fellow British White breeder, I am gladdened by her efforts and hopeful for the future of our very gentle, beautiful, and immortalized breed.  The carcass qualities of the British White breed have been enjoyed by the select few for many centuries, being for long periods of history the purview only of wealthy landed gentry in the United Kingdom.  As well, old legend has it that the coining of the word sirloin resulted from King Henry enjoying the loin (or surlonge, the French word meaning 'over the loin') of the ancient Park Cattle of the British Isles -- and dubbing it Sir Loin.

     The Lazy A Ranch is now working in Texas to see the sirloin and more of the British White breed on the dinner tables of many who choose to serve their families a healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly beef product.  Visit the Lazy A Ranch web site for contact information and availability of authentic grass fed beef.

    As well, the Lazy A Ranch has British White bulls and females periodically available for purchase.  You can be sure that the British White cattle available from the Lazy A are in excellent health and are from the best British White genetics available.  To see the cattle available from the Lazy A, visit this link, or visit the web site of the Lazy A Ranch for contact information.  Pictured below is a very fine Santa Gertrudis mama cow peering under the Huisache tree, and it is her young red-eared heifer calf pictured above that she is sternly protecting.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What Role did the U.S. Government Play in the Financial Crisis of 2008?

There is so much transparency in the air the past several days, I do believe the American people have just choked on it -- our minds are surely clogged up with the transparent sophistry of politics, both red and blue; and we are fast becoming color blind and would rather walk around in barefoot bliss rather than bother to figure out what socks match.

Those fortunate enough to breath in transparent methane from a herd of contented cows in their own pasture; those fortunate enough to feel the pleasure of going for a weekend drive with the window down along winding country roads, breathing deeply of the transparent methane of grazing cows in scattered pastures, breathing deeply of the transparent and lovely scent of sweet clover mixed with cow manure........ would much rather be in a perpetual state of barefoot bliss, sockless until the end of time.

Unfortunately, in time the squish of fresh manure between your barefoot toes becomes tiresome, the continued slap of stinging weed day after day barely fades before your ankles are slapped again, and eventually one's attention turns back to just what color socks it might be time to wear -- perhaps a new color entirely. Click the blog title link above for my colorless review of critical factors that led to the Financial Crisis of 2008 that has left so many of us sockless.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grassfed Beef - The Preference of Alexander Hyde in the 19th Century

In regard to Grass, Alexander Hyde tells us, “. . . we do not think it has yet generally attained the relative position and attention it deserves among the products of the earth. It is like the air we breathe, so common and so cheap, that we undervalue it. We avoid treading upon the blades of corn, but walk upon the velvety turf without compunction, but the grass “crushed to the earth” rises again, and is found, like truth, to prevail over all its foes.”

What a beautiful quote from the past, what a reverent feeling it invokes for the vast grasslands of America, and how appalled Mr. Hyde would be at the current direction of the United Nations and our Nation in regard to legislating less grass for a cow’s diet and more grain. Mr. Hyde also tells us:

•“We should be sorry to confine our cattle to dry hay alone for the six long months of our winter, but if we can not have both hay and roots, we speak for the hay. It is for the animal what bread is for man, the staff of his life.”
•“Let the cattle graze in pastures luxuriant with white clover, redtop, June and orchard grass, and the beef will be fit to set before an English king or a New York alderman.”
•“We have seen cattle luxuriating in rich pastures, whose flanks and sirloins fairly rolled with fat; and we have no doubt that beef thus made is more healthy than where the animal is confined in a dark stall, condemned to breathe impure air, fed with oil cake, and deprived of all exercise.”
•“It is not because we like corn and roots less that we thus speak, but because we like hay more. . . As there can be no question but that we can raise a hundred pounds of hay at less expense than a bushel of corn or five bushels of carrots, it follows that hay should be the leading crop where crops are raised to be fed out to stock.”
Mr. Hyde sounds like a modern day breeder of grass-fed beef cattle! The term ‘grass-fed’ in regard to beef seems to most a modern term, a new term applied to an old and natural approach to raising cattle. However, Mr. Hyde uses the term himself in the following:

“The quality of the manure depends much on the quality of the food the animal consumes. Grain-fed animals give a much richer manure than grass-fed, and those that ruminate digest their food more thoroughly and extract more nourishment from it than those furnished with only one stomach. A pig may live on the excrement of a horse, but would starve on the excrement of a cow.”

Source:  Agriculture: Twelve Lectures on Agricultural Topics: delivered before the Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, 1871, Alexander Hyde