British White Cattle
Some authors suggest British White
Cattle were brought to the United Kingdom by the Romans about 55 B.C.
There is further evidence that British White Cattle were in the United
Kingdom in pre-Roman times; perhaps as early as 4000 B.C.
One of the oldest herds of British White Cattle was the Sommerford
herd. It was owned by Sir Walter Shakerly in Cheshire and established in 1725. It was
dispersed in 1925 only five years after the breeds first herd book was published, but
never the less, Somerford Bulls or their Sons were used in all except two of the herds
listed in the first volumes of the book and featured very widely in the Woodbastwick and
Fugate herds. The Woodbastwick herd owned by John Cator is now the oldest British White
In 1940, the British Government ordered the shipment of a group of
these cattle to America to safeguard a precious national heritage if the United Kingdom
was invaded. This was the only breed to be safe guarded in this manner.
Many public building and historical points of interest are maintained
and supported by government finances. Is there any reason that equal recognition should
not be given to a breed of cattle, such as the British White?
The value of British White Bulls as sires of beef cattle, are worthy of
note by livestock farmers. This provides the strongest Commercial reason for use of
British White Bulls on commercial cows; cows will calve easier, calves have higher feed
conversion and efficiency and leaner carcasses as now demanded by the American housewife.
In his book, THE ANCIENT WHITE CATTLE OF BRITAIN, G. Kenneth Whitehead states that the
carcasses were described in 1790 by Thomas Bewick as; "They have little or no Fat
within, but it is interlarded with the flesh". Does this sound like what we are
trying to do today? Raise cattle with no more than 1/4" backfat but still have
marbling. This breed was doing it over 200 years ago, British White Cattle hold their own
against all other British breeds.
Large breeds may have higher daily gains
and weaning weights, but in some cases the disadvantages are more drastic. They may be too
big to fit THE BOX if fed to weights to grade. The benefits of speedy growth is of no
value unless a live calf is reared. Difficult calving has a marked influence on calf
mortality and fertility. This problem is noted in several large breeds. The higher growth
rate of crossbred calves sired by large bulls can be more than canceled out by the
superior survival rate and lower maintenance requirements of the British White calf.
The breed of the dam also affects the incidence of hard calving. The
crucial fact is the relationship of pelvic size and body size. One critical factor is
stump rear legs or straight hocks. Straight hocks in any cow of any breed tend to be
accompanied by a square level rump with a pelvic opening of reduced size. A cow with a
sloping pelvic girdle and low pin bones is less likely to experience calving problems.
There is considerable circumstantial evidence to credits of the British
White Cattle with resistance to certain diseases. British White Bulls on test in England
showed resistance and were free from pneumonia. Use British White Bulls and breed more
disease resistance into your calves. British White Cattle adjust very well to different
and extreme climates.
When Bull Testing Stations were first introduced, bulls were first
ranked according to their daily weight gains while on test. In its self this was an
inefficient method of evaluation. It took little account of compensatory growth(an
unexpected spurt of growth in an animal which has been gaining weight slowly). Even more
seriously, it gave no consideration to the efficiency of feed conversion or production of
lean meat. The obsession with growth rate resulted in various undesirable side effects
which the most important are; increases of the coincidence of calving difficulties and
much higher calf mortality. Defects accompany the use of breeds which are becoming popular
with the publicity given to higher growth and gain rates. Comparative trials carried out
by New Zealand Department of Lands and Survey confirm that had this not been used as the
basis of selection these problems could have been solved. The 400 day weight of British
White Bulls is 52.3 % of mature weight, in some other breeds this is more like 50.0 %.
This is a positive indication of efficiency.
A Brief History of British Whites in America is available
to download. Click Here.