For nearly 10 years, we have been breeding British White cattle. Being a rare breed, we started off small with just a few head and have built our herd to over 50 animals – and still growing. We often take our British Whites to local shows where we get lots of interest from people who ask the question “why British Whites?”
Well, here’s the reason why British White cattle are the perfect fit for our farming enterprise.
Firstly, I think that it’s really important to detail the way in which we farm so as to understand the context for choosing this breed.
We have a small farm in northeast Victoria, near Wodonga, that sits in a 600ml rainfall zone. Our farm is 190 acres (40 leased acres) and this is divided up into 25 paddocks, but we can divide them even smaller with the use of single-wire electric fencing. We have ample water for stock use and this is reticulated throughout the farm so that trough points can be established where we need them.
All this allows us to mob the cattle up and move them every few days. We farm with the aim of minimising our cost of production while maximising our return on investment. Call it what you will, but we employ a range of different practices to optimise the biological activity and water cycles on our farm, and through that, improve our overall productivity.
6 Reasons why we chose to raise British White cattle
1. Beef Quality
We realised right from the start that we could not be a commodity beef enterprise. As a farm, we are too small to be able to win at that game, and we never wanted to be in that space of high-input farming in the first place.
To be as profitable as possible, we decided to sell directly to the public and local butchers, but first, we needed to find a breed of cattle that produced the best quality beef from a grass-fed enterprise. My earlier blog “It’s all about the beef” details why British White cattle are a fantastic breed for achieving this. But don’t take my word for it – our friends Jono and Nats at Brooklands Free Range Farms have been winning national culinary awards for their grass-fed British White beef for years!
British White cattle have been around for centuries (since 1765 to be exact) as a dual-purpose breed prized for their milk and beef production. Through the industrial farming movement, there was a huge drive on producing as much milk or as much beef from a herd as quickly as possible, so dual breeds such as British White fell out of favour. However, it is fair to say that there has been a resurgence in breeds like the British White as they have so much to offer.
3. Frame Size
There has been a push in the commodity-farming sector for “bigger is better”. Go to any cattle show and have a look at the size of the bulls being presented. They are so big you wonder how long they could go walking around a paddock, and many of the cows are not too far behind in size.
Big cattle equals big feed bills and big pasture impact, especially in winter. What is most important to us at Nanthes Park are calves on the ground each year. I would rather have three 600kg cows rather than two 900kg cows, as I can get one more calf per year. With our British Whites, that is exactly what we have; a medium-frame-sized animal of 600kg with a frame size of 4 to 4.5. In this way, we are minimising our cost of production and maximising our returns.
British Whites have a very good structure. They have sound hooves and legs and a strong and even topline. A good structure equals longevity and that is important in any farming system. There is no point in spending a lot of money on a bull if it only lasts one or two seasons. Our British Whites keep going.
This is the key one for us. It’s not uncommon for us in Australia to experience famine, then flood, and back again. We need a breed of cattle that can keep weight on no matter what the conditions. When times are hard, our British Whites forage pretty much everything and they keep their weight and condition without the need for high-cost supplementary feeding.
As a dual-purpose breed, they always have plenty of milk for their calves and a really strong mothering instinct that makes me confident that the calves are well looked after and will do very well no matter what.
6. Docility / Easy Management
Their quietness and easy management is one of the biggest attributes of British White cattle that is so important to me. We move our cattle every couple of days and I’d much rather call them to come to the next paddock rather than herd them.
Moving the British Whites around the farm is a one-person job that is quick and simple. Working with them in the yards is just so easy. When we talk about cost of production, labour is a huge component in any farming business that is often not accurately costed. Having a breed of cattle whose attributes minimize that cost is something that all farmers need to consider, especially those who run a rotational grazing system. Calm cattle equals a calm farmer and that is something that I am very happy about!
In the end, the choice of breed is up to each farmer.
But in my opinion, British Whites have a huge amount to offer both the individual farming business and the industry more broadly. This is reflected in the growing interest in this breed and growing cattle registrations and society memberships. The demand is rising so much, that we have a waiting list of people wanting to purchase purebred British White cattle.
British White cattle are perfect for our farming business. I am very happy to have chosen this breed and am confident in their future. If you would like to know more about our cattle at Nanthes Park, or if you’re interested in purchasing from us, feel free to get in touch.