A HARDY BREED

by Ann van Engelen

Shirley Jenkins is the secretary and herd registrar of the Welsh Black Cattle Society of New Zealand and she and husband Bruce moved into Welsh Black cattle in 1980 as an alternative type of stock for their 600 acres of rolling land, now reduced to 200 acres.

“We farmed the family property that Bruce grew up on for some 40 years. It was originally Bruce’s grandfather’s property.

“We started with a Friesian dairy herd and went back into Jerseys. We then wanted beef cattle to go with the sheep running on the steeper 400 acres as well, and thought we would try a different breed of cattle to go with them,” said Shirley. “The Welsh Black have a good reputation for being hardy and providing high quality meat and milk. Bruce and I started using the bulls to tidy up after AI for our dairy herd. They seem to be getting more popular and we sell the bulls to dairy farmers.

“They are average sized cattle, about the same as a short horn — not great big huge things, but definitely not miniatures. They used to be dual purpose but with the increase of performance of traditional dairy breeds, they are now essentially a beef animal.”

Shirley says they grow well and the stock handle all weather and are versatile for grazing hard country and land with rough feed, and they are a good size for lifestyle block owners.

The meat has good flavour with nice marbling.

“The cattle are bred all around the country and there is a polled strain as well as the horned ones. They are a good breed for anything really.”

Last year the Welsh Black Cattle World Congress was held in New Zealand with 46 people visiting from across the world, including, Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Wales.

“They are still popular in Wales and have been cross bred with an exotic cow but the farmers there are going back to the original now. A Canadian visitor said they are great for the snow conditions where they live,” said Shirley.

“They are good for cold climates because of their thick winter coat.

“They need a shelter to hide from the wind but they don’t necessarily need housing in tough snow conditions as they hold their own heat longer than other breeds.

“They have very thick hides and like all animals they do need shade in the summer.”

In summer and in hot climates this coat is replaced with a smooth, glossy coat.

“Welsh Blacks are a true hill country breed of cattle and are generally easy calving,” said Shirley. 

“Their history of being raised in harsh, outdoor environments and their ability to convert rough feed into weight gain and having a willingness to forage makes them an ideal animal for any property.”

The calves are known to be vigorous and hardy and do not present feeding problems in dairy operations.

The cows have a long, even lactation Margarets daughter Jocelyn and baby Liam interact with Patience the heifer up to 300 days and they have a long productive life of 15–20 years.

“This hardy breed has much to offer modern farming systems with its ease of production and award winning succulent meat.

For more than 100 years the Welsh Black Cattle Society has nurtured, promoted and sought to improve the breed — a job which is continuing.”

argaret and Edwin Foord have 40 head of cattle and say they like them because of their temperament. 

            Margarets daughter Jocelyn and baby Liam interact with Patience the heifer

“I was first introduced to the breed through some bulls my dad had. They were older Welsh Black and they were very calm and mellow to be around,” said Margaret.

“Our children mistook them for stumps in the bush and it was then that I got really interested in the cows. 

My husband and I foot farm so we have a lot to do with the cattle and interact with them.

“The more we walk and talk to them the more they trust us.”

Margaret says cattle they have brought in that had never been handled are now people friendly and as the years go on their progeny have become more trusting.

“We sometimes have open days with 50 people visiting and our cattle handle it. They grow well on moderate or rough tucker. At present we are clearing off the neighbour’s property getting rid of the rank tough stuff including gorse and turning it back into pasture.

“They are wonderful cattle. They grow well and we don’t lose as many stock because they are so hardy. We highly recommend these cattle for all types of farms, they suit hill as well as low country.”