know your Cattle
Milk comes in bottles and cartons from the supermarket. Everybody knows that. When a group of children on a school trip were taken into a milking parlor they were amazed and shocked in equal proportions. Years of belief gone in a flash.
We have in the British Isles many different breeds of cattle, each with its own society or association. I have tried with their help to give you a glimpse of the tremendous diversity of cattle in these islands. Some have been here for a thousand years while others are just off the boat, mainly from Europe.
The purity of the Jersey breed is jealously guarded, unlike that of the black and white Holstein cow and its Friesian cousin; their complex relationship would need Sherlock Holmes to unravel.
Some breeds are as rare as the Giant Panda, others are more numerous — but all need our protection.
Native to: The British Isles
Now found: On most continents
The Aberdeen Angus is predominantly black but red does occur. They are without horns, polled.
The Aberdeen Angus originated in North-East Scotland in the early 19th century and descends from the two local breeds of black cattle known as Hummlies and Daddies. Hugh Watson of Keillor in Angus is considered to be the originator of the breed. He bought quality stock from near and far then used only the finest polled black animals for his breeding stock. In 1842 ‘Old Jock’, Watson’s favorite bull, was born. Another star of the herd, a cow called ‘Old Granny’, was born in 1824 and is said to have lived for 35 years and given birth to 29 calves. Most of today’s Aberdeen Angus can be traced back to these two animals.
The breed has a reputation for quality beef, established with the help of William McCombie. McCombie founded a herd based on Keillor stock and produced outstanding cattle which he showed in England and France. Development and improvement have continued into the 20th century.
Now found: Throughout the British Isles and on most continents
The Ayrshire is any shade of red or brown with white. The patches are jagged at the edges and cover the entire body.
The improvement and development of the breed began in the mid 18th century when the native breed was crossed with Teeswater and Channel Island cattle. Dur- ing this period, it was known as the Dunlop and then the Cunningham before becoming the Ayrshire.
By 1812 it was an established breed. For many years the horns were the hallmark of the breed. They were 30cm or more, curved upwards, outwards and backward and when polished for the show ring were a magnificent sight. In modern farming, horns are impractical so today most Ayrshires are dehorned as calves.
The Ayrshire is a strong, healthy, long-lived animal and an effective grazer. This makes it capable of surviving in less than ideal conditions such as the heat of Africa and the extreme cold of Scandinavia, whilst still producing world-quality milk which is ideal for making yogurt, cheese and ice cream.
Native to: Belgium
Now found: In Europe, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA
The Belgian Blue mainly comes in white, black and blue roan which is white hair over a base coat of a darker color. Red is seen occasionally.
The Belgian Blue, as you would expect, has its origins in central and upper Bel- gium. During the latter part of the 1800s, Shorthorn bulls were exported from the British Isles to Belgium to improve the local red and black pied cattle.
The early 20th century saw selective breeding to improve the quality of this dual-purpose animal with the major breakthrough in 1960. The modern Belgian Blue was the result of this skillful breeding. The breed goes by many names: the Moyenne et Haute Belgique; Belgian Blue- White; the Belgian White and Blue Pied and the Belgian White Blue. In 2008 it was agreed that in the British Isles the breed would be re-named and promoted as the British Blue.
Native to: cotland
Now found: Throughout the British Isles, Australia, Canada, the USA, and Switzerland