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But why aren’t they doing it already?

So, climate change means we should wipe out the native British breeds of cattle:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has funded a study with more than £10,000 of taxpayers’ money in which scientists at Harper Adams in Shropshire, a specialist agricultural university, will investigate possible ways of reducing emissions.

Possible routes being studied include increasing the use of dual-use cows instead of dairy-only herds and also swapping traditional British breeds for more muscular breeds that produce more meat.

Sounds a bit planner’s delusion to me but there we are. However:

The brief from Defra mentioned the possibility of pivoting to European breeds, such as the charolais or Belgian blue, but the scientists focused on the British blue.

The British blue has a gene mutation that allows it to naturally grow 20 per cent more muscle mass compared with other breeds while the animal is fine-boned and docile by nature, which leads to high volumes of meat produced per animal.

“British blue cattle tend to be more efficient with faster growth rates, higher carcass weights and a lower age at slaughter, which reduces their carbon footprint compared with the angus breed,” said Prof Jude Capper, lead author of the Government-commissioned study at Harper Adams University.

Well, that’s great. Sounds more economic all ’round in fact. So, why aren;t farmers already using the faster to grow, more profitable, vattle? What#s the reason they’re not?’

26 thoughts on “But why aren’t they doing it already?”

  1. Given that so called warble gloaming is the equivalent of moving 200 miles south, not sure why we’d notice.
    But – British blue – modern breed – bred for conditions in rich pastureland of middle England.
    Aberdeen Angus – bred for coastal conditions in NE Scotland.
    Hereford – bred for conditions in – oh I dunno.
    Highland cattle – bred for conditions on thin soil / wet uplands technically more suitable for sheep.

    It’s almost as if farmers have already spent millenia breeding livestock for their particular local conditions but nah!

  2. Five minutes on Google and I found a discussion from 2018 about the ups and downs of them. Most notably it seemed to be about smaller calves, so farmers couldn’t get much money for them.

  3. Lt Col O Kring ( retd)

    Dual use.

    Quite right too. Bloody cows, standing around in fields all day.

    Making ’em do some work !

    Better still put ’em in the army make men of the heifers.

  4. Philip Scott Thomas

    British blue cattle tend to be more efficient with faster growth rates, higher carcass weights and a lower age at slaughter, which reduces their carbon footprint compared with the angus breed.

    That’s great. But how do they taste?

  5. 50% of calves produced by a dairy herd are bulls. They go to the beef trade – which isn’t noted as a source of calves. Farmers specialise – some guy called Smith thought that specialisation might be a good thing.

  6. It’s curious that for 774,000,000 years nobody noticed that animals farted until a mental Swedish puppet noticed a funny smell…

  7. Lovely bird, the Belgian Blue.

    Meanwhile, rumour has it that UK Muslims are keen on dual-use goats.

  8. I have no idea what some ‘expert’ has been smoking, but the idea we should ‘pivot to European Breeds’ is utter pish. We’ve been using the continental breeds in the UK for over 40 years now. My own late father had some Limousins back in the early 80s. Utterly bonkers animals they were, take one look at a fence and crash straight through it, unlike the docile Herefords and Hereford crosses he had previously. Similarly the UK beef scene has been dominated by Charollais, Limousins, Belgian Blues, Blonde d’Aquitaines and Simmentals for years. There would hardly be a commercial beef herd around that specialises in purebred UK breed, unless they are going for the top end ‘fine dining’ meat market. All commercial beef production is done with Continental breeds, or cross breeds already.

    As for British Blues, I’ve never heard of them. There must be a good reason why they aren’t used, if they were so great they’d soon have been adopted universally. A bit of reading suggests that the British Blue isn’t really a native breed at all, its a Belgian Blue thats been changed by selective breeding into what is apparently accepted as a separate breed. But its basically a Belgian Blue. Its certainly not a true native breed.

  9. Cows don’t make emissions, bacteria do. If those bugs are inside the cow, it burps and farts. If the grass doesn’t get eaten by a cow it still gets eaten by bacteria. As an aside, the carbon dioxide cycle is not well understood. They keep finding hitherto unknown sources and sinks. Not new ones though, they’ve been there all the time while activists were certain about how it’s us and the cars and cows.

    I met a rancher in Texas who wouldn’t have the very profitable Wagyu cattle. Too ugly was his reason. Let the farmers decide.

  10. Isn’t the production of 20% more cow going to require more grass and result in more methane?

    Anyway, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board confirms what Jim says. Limousin crosses are the most popular beef cattle breed, but numbers of them and other continental breeds are falling, while numbers of Angus, Herefords and Shorthorns are rising. I suspect this is due to ponces like me going for ‘native breed beef’.

    My late father wasn’t a fan of big continental breeds, although he did have a massive charolais bull at one point, I recall. (He was a farmer BTW, the bull didn’t live at the bottom of a suburban garden)

  11. I’d be a big fan of the Italian Chianina – if I’d ever seen one – because of the lovely Bistecca Alla Fiorentina I’ve eaten on many visits to Florence. Not a big fan of its tripe, though. Nor of politicians’ tripe, either.

  12. Not a farmer, but the usual reasons for not changing seem to be:
    1. Much extra cost to switch. From what I’ve read, most farmers are already heavily in debt. Switching may cause a disastrous interruption in cash flow.
    2. Lack of intimate knowledge of the new thing, versus lots for the old thing. For cows, there’s the “new diseases” thing, or the “hates fences” thing.
    3. Is there actually a market for the new thing? Can you sell into their existing market, e.g. the EU? Is your existing market (Britain) willing to switch?

  13. I used to walk to school over the glebe pasture, I did. Ho yuss. The kye must have been Ayrshires.

    “Good morning, ladies” I would say. Not that they ever replied. But neither did they ever threaten violence. Lovely ladies, yer Ayrshires.

  14. I read somewhere that cows fart less when fed on seaweed. Maybe farmers don’t use it because it makes the milk a bit fishy.

  15. Marine snow. That’s the carbonate from shellfish etc that doesn’t get eaten before it falls to the bottom of the ocean.
    It’s only about 1 mm per year but over 193 million square miles of ocean that’s a lot of carbon being sequestered.

  16. Don’t know about beef but there’s already a niche market for seaweed fed sheep:

    “Not only rare and unusual, the sheep are central to the island’s economy as well; their wool and meat is sold and the uniqueness of the sheep themselves draw tourists every year. The meat of the sheep in particular is of a very high standard and in great demand. It has a unique gamey flavour due to the sheep’s unusual diet. In fact, it was North Ronaldsay mutton that was used by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, and was served to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. You can even recreate the very same dish using the recipe from The Orkney Sheep Foundation’s website today, if you can get your hands on some of the delicious North Ronaldsay mutton that is.”

  17. “50% of calves produced by a dairy herd are bulls. They go to the beef trade”

    IANAF but, unless things have changed in the last few years, bull dairy calves (except for a tiny proportion that may be kept for breeding) are shot and go for dog food. Worst job on the (dairy) farm.

  18. Chris,
    I thought they were converted into trans or as we used to call them bullocks.?
    No point in wasting all that potential beef on the dogs.


  19. @ Chris Miller
    That practice isn’t universal: near my home a lot of the bullocks from dairy herd are raised to near-maturity (mostly for beef-burgers. I suspect): we occasionally pass mixed herds of (mostly dairy but partly beef) stirks on the various water-meadows upstream in summer months (they have to uphill grazing in winter).

  20. “I thought they were converted into trans or as we used to call them bullocks.?
    No point in wasting all that potential beef on the dogs.”

    Culling of males calves on dairy farms was routine for many years (and went in cycles, as the beef price was up then selling the calves made money for a dairy farm, when the beef price was low you couldn’t give them away). But a few years ago the Red Tractor farm assurance scheme introduced a ban on culling, so I assume they all end up in the meat trade somehow nowadays, as almost all dairy farms are Red Tractor assured (they have to be, the supermarkets and milk processors demand it). There’s also a lot more use of sexed semen on dairy farms now too, so they can eliminate the male calves before they are even conceived. Sexed semen reduces the proportion of males to 10%.

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