Friday, January 7, 2011
What does a rare breed farmer get for Christmas?
We have been incredibly fortunate to source a small herd of endangered traditional dairy shorthorn cattle from Western Creek breeders Betty and Warrick Holmes.
Western Creek is under the Western Tiers behind Deloraine, and Betty and Warrick are reluctantly selling their animals and farm so they can move back to New Zealand to be with family.
The dairy shorthorns are absolutely beautiful beasts, with quiet and gentle natures, and we are so pleased that the Holmes’ have entrusted us with their care.
They’re a dual purpose breed which means they’re good for both milk and beef, and they’ve been around for about 200 years.
In the early 1900s the dairy shorthorn was the main breed of cattle in Britain, and was called the “farmer’s cow of England”. It fitted in well with the routine of a mixed farm.
But in a similar story to the Wessex Saddleback pigs, as farming intensified, the breed began to be lost.
Farmers were looking for either high milk production, or heavy carcass weight, and it’s hard to soup-up a cow to do both.
Around the world the dairy shorthorn genetics have been altered to focus on either of these traits, but we’re lucky in Australia there has been a concerted effort to preserve the original dual purpose genes. There's also good old stock in Ireland.
In Australia traditional dairy shorthorns are on the rare breeds list under ‘endangered’, along with traditional herefords and traditional angus.
Aren’t their coats lovely? Ours are mostly roan (red sprinkled with white) but we also have a pure white cow and a few white calves. They can also come in red.
We think they deserve to be held back from extinction because they're perfect for the smallholder wanting to milk a few cows and produce a decent beef animal for the freezer. They're also docile and calve easily. Dairy shorthorns were the foundation stock for many other red breeds, including illawarras and ayrshires.
Neither of us drink much milk, but Guy's already making plans for a small milking shed, and Eliza's digging out her cheese books. It'll be great to have our own yoghurt, butter and cheese to go with our homegrown meat and vegetables.
Warrick and Betty Holmes say goodbye to their cattle