British White cattle are one of the oldest purebred cattle from the United Kingdom. They are primarily a beef breed but maintain a dual-purpose identity with some farmers using them for their rich milk.
British White cattle are a highly adaptable breed, known for their intelligence, docility, productivity, longevity, and hardiness.
British White cattle have a lot to offer farmers, and this article will cover their history, characteristics, and why you should consider British White cattle for your farm.
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Where Do British White Cattle Come From?
British White Cattle are originally from Whalley Abbey, Lancashire in Great Britain. They naturally evolved from wild cattle.
It was noted in historical records that a large herd existed at Whalley Abbey in the 15th century and was kept by the nobility there.
A small number of the original heard was purchased privately in 1840 at Woodbastwick and in subsequent years some of the herd was moved to Norfolk, though a cattle plague in 1860 killed all but 2 individuals, from whom the herd was built back up.
A portion of these cattle were sold to other smalls farms in the late 19th century. Some farms preferred red-point over black-point, and polled over horned, with other farms selecting for different traits resulting in the breed having some difficulty in keeping a consistent identity.
British White cattle are sometimes confused with the horned White Park cattle and were at times kept in the same herd book due to the heavy crossbreeding between them, but today the two are known to be two separate breeds.
The Park Cattle Society was founded in 1918 and published the first herd book in 1919.
In WWII, British White cattle were exported to North America for the first time in the 1940s by order of Winston Churchill who wished to preserve the breed.
Following the conclusion of WWII, they were exported to Australia in the 1950s.
In 1946, the Park Cattle Society merged with the newly created British White Cattle Society, and they decided to only registered polled individuals.
In North America, the British White Cattle Association of America was created, and in Australia, the British White Cattle Society of Australia was founded with the goals of keeping the qualities that the British White breeds of cattle had come to be known for.
While cattlemen appreciate the British White for its outstanding performance as both a suckler and beef breed, they still have a relatively small population worldwide and are currently on the watch list by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
British White Cattle Breed Characteristics
|Official Breed Name||British White Cattle|
|Scientific Name||Bos taurus|
|Appearance||White coat with black points or red point|
Dark pigmented skin with black ears, nose, muzzle, eyelids, hooves, and tongue
The front of the fetlock may have a color splash
Cows have well set udders and black medium-sized teats
They are naturally polled
|Mature Cow Weight||1200lbs to 1500lbs|
|Mature Cow Height||4.4 feet|
|Mature Bull Weight||2000lbs to 2400lbs|
|Mature Bull Height||4.7 feet|
|Ready To Breed||13 to 15 months|
|Gestation Period||283 days|
|First Calvings||Around 2 years|
|Time to Slaughter||14 to 16 months with intensive finishing, though some wait until 24 to 30 months|
|Expected Lifespan||20 years|
|Productive Lifespan||12 years|
|Known For||Trouble-free temperament|
|Weaknesses||Possible carrier of Robertsonian Translocation (RT) which is a chromosomal abnormality affecting the number of chromosomes (58 or 59 rather than 60) and may affect registration|
|Climate||Adaptable to both extreme cold and excess heat|
What Is So Special About British White Cattle?
British White cattle are dual-purpose animals and are primarily raised as beef cattle. They are typically finished off of grass and can be butchered as early as 14 months though many operations choose a 24 to 30-month window for higher weight.
British White beef is premium, well-marbled and high-grade beef devoid of excess fat. It is known as tender meat with a unique flavor profile, so much so that celebrity chef Nigel Haworth purchased a herd of 90 cows in 2008 for exclusive use in his Michelin-starred restaurants.
Typical carcass yield falls between 55% and 60% and produces up to 70% select beef. As a beef breed, British Whites are highly economical for return on investment.
British White cows were heavily used in commercial milk operations until the 1960’s because they are top-notch producers that can yield up to 5000 liters.
British White cows can easily handle twins without needing supplemental milk and cows can wean calves weighing more than 500lbs which is great value when using them for beef.
Why Should I Raise British White Cattle On My Farm?
- The British White breed is known to have excellent hardiness
- High productivity, with British White cows still birthing into teenage years
- Gentle, docile temperament that handles well
- British White bulls have high fertility and can handle a herd of 40 to 50 cows
- Easy keeper that is efficient at foraging and finishes on grass
- Resilient against disease and parasites saving money on vet bills
- Natural resistance against viral pneumonia as well as tuberculosis
- Dark skin protects the skin against sun, snow, and cancer
- Dark hooves that rarely lose shape mean less foot problems
- Heifers are able to provide rich milk immediately for their first calving
- Breeders love their crossbreeding abilities as they pass on the best of their traits
- Naturally polled so they won’t accidentally injure each other and are easier to handle