Monday, November 30, 2009


Been to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at Builth Wells today - along with almost 14,000 others. Second biggest attendance ever. Lots of non-farmers there. One asked me why the cattle were so varied in colour. I explained they were different breeds, which was only sort of true, because most of them were crosses. Anyway thought I should post a blog for readers who know little about cattle, outlining some of the basic differences. This first beast, a heifer, is a British Blue - which is a new breed. What happened was that many Belgian Blues were imported into the UK, and a while ago, a British herd book was started up - and the British Blue was born. This breed was imported because of its double muscled hind quarters, the part of a beef animal that provides the most expensive joints. Its a sort of Jennifer Lopez of the cattle world. The downside is that a high proportion of calf births have to be by cesarean, which is OK while cattle prices are high. Today's Show is a 'fatstock' show, so many of the animals were a Belgian or British Blue cross.

This is a Limousin, a French breed which has become very popular. My last bull before selling my suckler herd was a Limousin. Features of this breed are easy calving (main reason I kept them), rapid growth, and a tendency to put on meat rather than fat. Downside of the breed is that they are a bit 'frisky'. Always best to give bulls a wide berth, and the females can completely lose it, running through fences and jumping over high walls. I think the Limousin is a beautiful animal.

This is the bull of my childhood. Forty years ago and before, the Hereford dominated. The first 10 bulls I remember serving our herd of sucklers were Herefords. And then they became very unfashionable. Poor growth rates, and meat not in the right places. But the Hereford is making a comeback - especially on small farms and speciality meat suppliers. The meat of a Hereford is often described as 'marbled' whatever that means. Its a lovely quiet breed, and for all those Euro sceptics, its British.

And finally there's the Charolais. I remember when I bought my first Charolais bull. He was huge, and nasty, and French and frightening. A veritable Sebastian Chabal. Had to get rid of him. His replacement was not much better. But over the years, they've been bred to be a bit calmer. But everyone should be wary of any breed of bull. They can pick up the scent of a female 'in season' from a big distance away if downwind, and when aroused are always dangerous. Hope that's been an introduction to those of you who know nothing about our bovine friends.


Anne said...

what about Welsh Blacks

Alistair Barber said...

Just FYI Glyn, having consulted my local purveyor of meat, 'marbling' is the appearance of the meat wherein the fibrous muscle tissue is interspersed with small deposits of fat which then naturally 'tenderize' the meat during cooking.

MMmmm! Delicious.

Glyn Davies said...

Anne - Not many Welsh Blacks are used for beef as pure breds. They are very good as dams for crossing with Charolais. That's how I used to use them.

Alistair - that must be why the Hereford is making a comeback.