White Park Cattle feature in The Ark

2023 was the 50th anniversary of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.  Since its inception in 1973, the Trust has used as its logo the outline of a distinctive horned head – that of the White Park.    The Rare Breeds Survival Trust has also produced an anniversary badge featuring the outline of a White Park.

To commemorate the golden anniversary of its logo, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s magazine, The Ark, featured a profile of the White Park in its June 2023 edition.  The article chronicles our breed’s history, its superlative quality of meat and explains why a White Park would be a great addition to a wide range of grazing conditions.

You can read the full article on the link below.

White Park Cattle in The Ark June 2023

Farewell to Lawrence Alderson CBE as Society President

2023 has been a year of change for the White Park Cattle Society.  We started the year with a new Chair of Council, following Alistair Black’s retirement from the role in December 2022 after 18 years in post.  New Chair, Henry Rusch, hit the ground running and organised our AGM and Open Day at Chartley Estate in Staffordshire.

During the Open Day it was announced that our President, Lawrence Alderson CBE, would be retiring from the role after 35 years.  Lawrence’s contribution to the Society and the White Park breed is inestimable – he is a fount of knowledge on the genetics of the White Park and has been analysing DNA results for many years.   His company – Countrywide Livestock – arranged for the revival of registrations for White Park cattle in 1974 and produced the first herd book later that year.

Lawrence is an author of several books on the White Park breed and is also the subject of a biography entitled “Anarchy or Establishment” –  the story of the journey of a shy boy from a remote Pennine hill farm to a man who is now a renowned international consultant on conservation genetics with a CBE for services to rare breeds.

To show our gratitude to Lawrence, the Society presented him with a menu voucher for a Michelin starred restaurant in Henley in Arden, which Lawrence and his partner Polly enjoyed in September, accompanied by Henry Rusch.

Lawrence remains a member of the Society and we look forward to seeing him and Polly at future Open Days.

Below: Lawrence (left) shakes hands with Alistair Black at the Open Day 2023.

2023 – the 40th anniversary year for the White Park Breed Society

A history of the White Park breed and the White Park Cattle Society by Lawrence Alderson CBE

White Park cattle have a remarkable history punctuated by dramatic events which give it an enviable and unequalled provenance.  A British/German research project identified in the mitochondrial DNA in the remains of a cow from 10,000 years in the Middle East the exact haplotype which has been carried by her female descendants to cows living today in the Tawe family in the Dynevor herd of White Park cattle. Animals in the Cadzow and Chillingham herds are closely related to them. More recently in the last two thousand years White Park cattle had a prestigious cultural status in Wales and Ireland, being used in religious rituals and as currency to appease royalty or purchase a wife. Rather more than 400 years ago, because of the superlative marbling and flavour, the quality of a joint of White Park beef was rewarded with the title ‘Sir Loin’, and the 400th anniversary was celebrated by the society. The heritage value of the breed was recognised by Winston Churchill who exported a few animals to Canada as an insurance against invasion of Britain during WW2.

Despite recognition of its special status as the most ancient British breed the White Park declined during WW2. Registrations had ceased in 1946 and the breed drifted for a quarter of a century as a couple of ornamental parkland herds. At its nadir in 1970 only 65 breeding cows remained. Its recovery was kick-started in 1974. Current records were collected and collated. In some cases, particularly with the Whipsnade and Dynevor herds, it was possible to trace accurate records back as far as the mid-1950s or even further. A registration programme was re-established by my private company, Countrywide Livestock Ltd, leading to the publication of the first volume of a new series of herd books containing details of foundation stock born during or before 1974. Next year (2024) we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Herd Book and the revival of the breed.

In 1982 the White Park was recognised officially under the terms of Article 6 of the EEC Directive 77/504 (Pure-bred Breeding Cattle). The criteria on which this Directive was based included the requirement that the breed should be identifiable and pure. Superficially, it was beneficial to be accepted as an ‘official’ breed within Europe, but the interpretation of the Directive gave considerable cause for concern. The definition of purebred within the Directive was: “Any bovine animal the parents and grandparents of which are entered or registered in a herd-book of the same breed, or which is itself either entered or registered and eligible for entry in such a herd-book”. The loopholes provided by this definition were a serious threat to the genetic integrity of the breed. In practice it condoned a two-generation grading-up programme and that was unacceptable for the White Park.

This year we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the formation (or revival) of the Breed Society which was formalised in November 1983 at a meeting at Ayton Castle in Berwickshire, when the Duchess of Hamilton was appointed as President and Lawrence Alderson as Chairman. The Breed Society organised Open Days to visit various herds commencing in the early 1980s. They were notable for the spirit that permeated them. A report from volume VIII of the new Herd Book made reference to “the friendly atmosphere that pervades all activities of the White Park Cattle Society. There is always a warm welcome and bonhomie, devoid of the political wrangling that besets so many societies. Newcomers can expect willing help and advice and long-standing members value the friendships that have grown”.

The revival of the breed had started from the lowest point in 1970. Twenty seven years later there were more than sixty cattle in one herd when a special Open Day was staged for the Dynevor herd on Salisbury Plain. It celebrated 800 years of history of the herd since the death of Rhys ap Gruffydd (an owner of the herd), although it was maybe 1,150 years since they first had been associated with his family. It was a major event attended by more than fifty guests, including a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, and was followed by a banquet in London at Butchers’ Hall. The breed has continued to expand and attract new owners with a desire to breed distinctively special cattle. There are now almost 100 active herds with about 1,000 cows of breeding age. The special qualities of the White Park have been recognised in many different areas of interest, and it has demonstrated its commercial potential. The breed has truly come of age.


Photo of the Harley herd of White Park cattle by Dorit Albertsen

AGM and Open Day takes place at Chartley Estate

Chartley Estate near Stafford was the location for our 2023 AGM and Open Day, kindly hosted by David and Virginia Johnson.  Over 40 members attended the event.     Chartley Estate is home to the Castle herd of White Park cattle, which was established following the arrival of two heifers from the Chartley herd from Ditchingham Eatate in Norfolk.  The Ferres family, who live at Ditchingham, once owned Chartley Estate, hence the connection between the two locations.

During the AGM there was a presentation to Alistair Black, who retired in February of this year from being Chair of the Society, a role he had held for 18 years.

An open forum followed the AGM when members were reminded about the beef certificate which is available, asked to complete and return their herd surveys and reminded that TB reactors which are registered or birth notified attract a higher level of compensation.

At the end of the Open Forum Chair of Council, Henry Rusch, announced that Lawrence Alderson would be stepping down from his role of President, but would remain on Council.  Lawrence’s commitment to managing the DNA testing programme and his contribution to the development of the White Park breed over more than 50 years was acknowledged by the meeting.  Lawrence was presented with a meal voucher for a Michelin-starred restaurant.

A full copy of the AGM minutes can be viewed below.

AGM 2023 final minutes

After lunch members enjoyed a tour of the estate, including Chartley Castle.  The castle is a grade 2 listed motte and bailey castle originally constructed around 1100.  Visitors have included Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.  The estate’s herd of White Park females grazed quietly below the castle, watched over by the magnificent bull Cadzow Qeith.    An evening meal at a hotel in Uttoxeter completed a fabulous day.

Cadzow Qeith in front of Chartley Castle

Quality of White Park beef was displayed in special lunch in Bournemouth restaurant

Michelin green star restaurant Terroir Tapas in Southbourne, Bournemouth, held a 7-course White Park beef lunch on Saturday 15 April 2023 to allow diners to experience the quality of this special meat.  The beef was served in various forms, such as smoked, braised and tartare, for 5 of the courses and was followed by 1 cheese course and 1 desert.

During the lunch Hogget and Boar butchery delivered a talk about the beef, which was sourced from a WPCS member’s farm, and let diner’s know about their high welfare practices which ensure that all their meat originates from grass-fed and free-range animals.

Afterwards, White Park Cattle Society President, Lawrence Alderson CBE, spoke about the history of White Park cattle and gave an overview of the breed.

You can read more about Terrior Tapas via their website.

Henry Rusch is the new Chair of the White Park Cattle Society

In December 2022 Henry Rusch was unanimously voted on as the new Chair of the White Park Cattle Society.  Henry has been a member of Council since June 2016 and a member of the Society since 2009.  Henry and his wife Julie farm in the stunning location of the White Peak, north of Ashbourne in the remote hamlet of Back of Ecton.

Henry has been shadowing Lawrence Alderson and Alistair Black to become our third bull inspector, and to show his dedication Henry conducted two bull inspections whilst on holiday in France!  These were for member Eric Bautsch who re-located to Oradour-St-Genest in November 2020.  Henry also bred Pass Plus bull Broadecton Clayton who is available as semen via UK Sires.

Expanding our breed overseas is a special interest for Henry and he has arranged for several embryos from one of his cows to be transplanted in host dams in two herds New Zealand.  These embryos resulted in White Park calves over the other side of the world and 2 new members for the Society.

Before becoming a full-time farmer in 2009 Henry was a chartered accountant and company director, so he also brings considerable business experience to the Society.  Henry is also a Trustee of a local care farm and has taken part in the Fresh Start initiative which matches new entrants to farming with farmers in their area who have spare land.  This arrangement also means that Henry and Julie can indulge their other passion of travelling, knowing that their stock is being cared for by their tenants whilst they are away.

We very much look forward to working with Henry in his new role.

Chair Alistair Black steps down from the Chair role after 18 years

At our December 2022 Council meeting we witnessed the ending of an era, when Alistair Black announced that he would be stepping down from the Chair.   Alistair has been the Chair of the Council of the White Park Cattle Society for 18 years, but he has now decided that the time has come to take a step sideways.  Alistair will be remaining a member of Council.

A broad Scot, who grew up in Angus Tayside, Alistair, his wife Ella and 2 sons re-located to the Norfolk/Suffolk border 30 years ago when he took on the role of Estate and Farm Manager at Ditchingham.  It was here that he was introduced to White Park cattle, as the estate is home to the Chartley herd – one of 3 heritage herds for our breed.  Alistair is an experienced stockman and became an authority on our breed, and is now one of 3 bull inspectors, working alongside President Lawrence Alderson and new inspector Henry Rusch, to ensure that only the best bulls are registered for breeding.  Alistair remains one of our go-to members for advice on conformation, the potential of a calf and the management regime for cattle, having sold quality carcases to The Savoy.

As Chair of our Society, Alistair has led our Council members on their discussions surrounding our strategic direction.  He has also sourced our AGM locations and made all of the arrangements, along with the help of our Treasurer James Gill, and the host members for the open day.  Alistair also offers support to our Secretary, Jane, and has always made himself available for advice.

Our President, Lawrence Alderson, has worked with Alistair for 20 years.    On hearing that Alistair was stepping down Lawrence said, “during almost two decades as Chairman of Council of the White Park Cattle Society Alistair Black has demonstrated a level of commitment that will be difficult to follow. His deep knowledge of our special breed is matched only by his progressive leadership and energetic enthusiasm which has propelled him around the country to visit many breeders and their herds. The Society owes him heartfelt and grateful appreciation for his immense work.”

It is difficult to estimate how many hours of his time Alistair has donated to the Society over the years, but suffice to say, we are all incredibly grateful for his generosity. Alistair has been instrumental in shaping us into the thriving Society that we are today, and we now look forward to moving forward to a new era with a new Chair.

At our Council meeting on 10 December 2022 Henry Rusch presented Alistair with a porridge spurtle (stirrer) as a present.  We will also be making a presentation to Alistair at the 2023 AGM, to allow members to show their own appreciation for his support.

Smoile Elgar graces a new pub sign in Warwickshire

We were recently contacted by the owner of a pub in Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire which was re-launching after a period of closure.   The Manager was a fan of White Park cattle and wanted to use an image of a White Park bull on his new pub sign.  Not surprisingly, the pub is named The Bull’s Head!

Luckily, we had a photo of Smoile Elgar, taken by his owner Debbie Dann, which fitted the bill perfectly.   So, following the relaunch of the pub Elgar is now enticing customers to sample the delicious English and Thai food on offer at the pub.

Smoile Elgar is a Pass Plus bull bred by Anthony and Pat Milner and has so far sired 24 Stoneleigh calves for Debbie Dann and Alan Hunt.  Sadly, Anthony Milner passed away before he could hear the news about Elgar’s fame.

New branded White Park Cattle Society portable coffee mugs available for sale

Our new mugs are designed to cut down on the wastage of using a cardboard mug every time you pop into a coffee shop to buy a take-away drink.  The screw top allows you to carry your coffee safely back to your home, car or office.

Council member Frank Sutton and his daughter Anna arranged the production of these mugs and kindly donated them to the Society to enable to us raise some much-needed funds.

The mugs are 14cm tall and have a capacity of 35 cl.  They are microwave and top rack dishwasher safe and were made in the UK from BPA free plastic.

The mugs are for sale at £10 each or £9 each if you buy 5 or more at the same time.  Postage and packing are included.

To order your mugs please contact our Secretary, Jane, on [email protected]