Whitebred Shorthorns in South West Cornwall
A recent trip to the Penzance area in SW Cornwall provided
a very interesting insight into two very different uses for
the Whitebred Shorthorn. Karen Wall, owner of the Trenow herd,
and Gerald and Anne Babcock, owners of the Pendeen herd, work
closely with their animals despite using their cattle in totally
|View from Trenow across to Penzance
Trenow Whitebred Shorthorns
Trenow Cove Dairy is a micro dairy, run by Karen Wall, processing
milk from rare breed Whitebred Shorthorns. She is currently
milking six cows. Following calving in April and early May
the cows were producing about 72 litres of milk per day. 6
months on they are producing about 48 litres daily. She normally
calves a cow in the autumn to boost milk production through
the winter. enow Whitebred Shorthorns.
Karen has developed a local market for her milk supplying
local hotels as well as a good number of private customers.
She charges her hotel customers 80 pence per litre with the
remainder of the milk fetching £1 per litre to private
clients. Demand always outstrips supply. (Current payments
to most modern large dairy herds fall into the mid 20 pence
per litre bracket).
Supermarket milk is homogenised, a process that breaks down
the fat into fine particles which prevents separation of the
fat at the top of the milk. These fragmented fatty acids are
readily absorbed by our digestive system leading to higher
cholesterol levels. Pasteurising milk does not fragment the
fat and is therefore less readily absorbed by our digestive
tract allowing it to be enjoyed without the uptake of potentially
harmful levels of high cholesterol fats.
All Karen’s cows have individual names which are used
day to day. Karen told me that a study by Newcastle University
found that cows treated as individuals with a name produced
500 pints more milk yearly than those without that individual
Karen has built a very impressive small dairy unit for milking
her cows and pasteurising/bottling the milk.
|Milking unit and pasteurising/bottling
Incorporated in the dairy building is an isolation pen and
feed store. It’s a very impressive and easily managed
Trenow Cove dairy has a traditional approach and has turned
the clock back to a slower, less intensive approach using simple
equipment, but with a modern approach to hygiene. The cows
are stocked at low density and are out-wintered. Karen’s
extensive management of her Whitebred Shorthorn cows and dairy
unit result in a low carbon footprint.
|Trenow Cove Dairy Tuk Tuk
The milk is all sold within a 2/3 mile radius of Trenow Cottage
and is delivered by a very distinctive Tuk Tuk.
Karen’s cows are impressive and all have wonderful temperaments,
good udders and teats and are great examples of the Whitebred
Snowflake, a ten year old cow and great example
dual purpose Whitebred Shorthorn breed
Pendeen Whitebred Shorthorns
Gerald and Anne Babcock run a beef suckler herd at Pendeen.
Gerald has always been interested in re-introducing grazing
to the Penwith Moors. The moors have been abandoned for the
last 60+ years mainly due to mechanised farming methods and
the huge increase in the volume of motor traffic on the unfenced
Penwith country narrow roads.
In 2008 the Heath Project came to West Cornwall. It brought
increased European funding to Penwith’s hard pressed
rural economy. Heathland is a generally open and dynamic landscape
that develops on impoverished, usually acidic soils and supports
a range of plant communities. These include heathers (Calluna
and Erica), acid grasses (eg Festuca and Agrostis) and Gorse
(Ulex spp.) This project recognised the vital importance of
reintroducing an extensive grazing regime to Penwith Moors.
Gerald and Anne welcomed this incentive and identified Whitebred
Shorthorns as the ideal conservation grazing animal to return
the moors to productive heathland.
Large areas of the moorland had become bracken invaded and
the Heath Project allowed Gerald and Anne to form a small company
offering a unique Moorland Management Service to farmers entering
the aid funded Heath Project.
The Whitebred Shorthorn foundation stock for the Pendeen conservation
grazing herd came originally from the Bell family at Bloch
and from Gordon Gilligan’s High Creoch herd . The current
stock bull Spoutbank Major has bred very well but is currently
for sale as he is coming into his own stock.
Penwith stock numbers have been boosted with the introduction
of the annual calf crop from Trenow. All the Trenow calves
are hand reared by Anne with most of the male calves being
castrated and the females being brought on for Karen’s
Wall’s dairy replacements or to expand the Pendeen herd.
All these young stock are used for conservation grazing on
the Penwith Moor heath areas.
|Pendeen and Trenow youngstock
summering on the White Downs section of the Penwith Moors
The return of cattle to the Penwith Moors have already provided
a major influence in halting the spread of scrub and stopping
the cycle of huge wildfires. This is improving biodiversity
on the moors and wildlife numbers are on the rise again after
decades of decline.
|Kissing gate, interpretation
and field access gate supplied with Higher Level Stewardship
through Natural England and supported by Gerald’s
landlords, the National Trust
Wrapped silage is made from grass cut late in the season.
This allows ground nesting birds to fledge their young. The
bales are evenly spaced to allow easy manual moving of the
lightweight ring feeders. This eliminating the need for tractors
in the wet winter months and thereby reduces poaching damage
by tractor wheels and problems from feeding in the one spot.
An electric fence protects the unused bales.
In summary I was impressed with the huge enthusiasm displayed
by Gerald, Anne and Karen Wall. They are all ardent Whitebred
Shorthorn enthusiasts and are doing all they can to promote
and expand the breed in SW England. They are looking closely
at marketing surplus stock and are hoping to support the society
sales in Carlisle with their surplus stock in the fairly near
future. Although severely disadvantaged geographically our
breeders in SW Cornwall are determined to try and expand their
businesses and markets. Many thanks to Karen, Gerald and Anne
for the hospitality and time they made available on my visit.