Camouflaging cattle at Dynevor during World War II

By Lawrence Alderson, CBE, President of the White Park Cattle Society

A recent enquiry regarding the Second World War caused me to search the archives of the Dynevor herd. There were confirmed reports that a Luftwaffe bomber flying up the Tywi valley in South Wales caused considerable concern. In particular it was thought the white cattle might be used as a navigational aid by German pilots because of their distinctive appearance. A colourful and amusing story appeared in several publications claiming the cattle were camouflaged to hide them from aerial view. Although many dismissed it as apocryphal whimsy it justified some research.

As early as the 1950s an opinion was expressed that “the herd was camouflaged with a green dye” and an article written in 1991 stated “it is reported that during the Second World War, because the cattle were clearly visible against the green background, they were painted with camouflage colouring to hide them from enemy aircraft. Evidently the first shower of rain wasted that effort”. I made a similar statement in ‘A Breed of Distinction’ (1997) which I repeated in ‘Breeding the Best (2019) – “towards the end of the twentieth century older people in the Llandeilo area remember the cattle were marked with green camouflage paint during the Second World War which unfortunately served only to cause war within the herd as the animals did not recognise each other.”

So where does he truth lie? In 1997 I had correspondence with a retired veterinary surgeon who was born in Llandeilo in the 1920s. I quote from his letter of 1 May to me:

“During the war I was away at Veterinary school, but I well recall my uncle who was then farming directly opposite Dynevor Park, across the River Towy, relating to me the saga of the estate staff efforts at camouflaging the white cattle from being sighted by German aircraft, when the possibility of an invasion became imminent after Dunkirk. The cattle were all collected and covered in an oil-based cement paint! The following day the park was like a slaughterhouse, the cattle had all regarded each other as strangers and fought throughout the night: this was confirmed to me in conversation with the late Vivian John, who had attended the herd as their Vet Srgn from before the war until their dispersal due to double death duty.”

He is the most reliable source, firstly as his parents were tenants of the Dynevor Estate and his family had been employees for several generations, and secondly as his account was confirmed by the veterinary surgeon who was responsible for the herd at that time and until I purchased it in the mid-1970s.

Dynevor cattle taken during the 1930s

Two dams bond following loss of calf

Member Rosemary Woodward, whose family own the Nutbrook herd of White Park cattle in Derbyshire, recently contacted us with a story about how a cow has moved on from the loss of her calf at birth.

“Our White Parks have started calving now and our first cow calved without issue.  Sadly, the next cow to calf was not straight forward and she lost her calf. We fetched her in to try and assist her, but when we returned her to the field she started mothering the first calf which had been born to the other cow.  Now the pair of cows mother the one calf together.   We are surprised that the mother allowed this to happen, as they are normally so protective of their own calves, but they seem to be happily working together. We had a look of the pedigrees of the two cows and noticed that while they differ is age, they are in fact full sisters.”

Podcast on the importance of yesterday’s native rare breeds for tomorrow’s agriculture

As an expert on our native rare breeds Lawrence Alderson was recently invited to take part in an interview with Jeremy Cherfas for his “Eat this” podcast on the importance of yesterday’s breeds for tomorrow’s agriculture.  During the interview Lawrence refers to White Park cattle on several occasions.  The whole interview is 26 minutes in length and you can listen to it here.


Highlea Daisy wins her White Park class in virtual heritage breed competition

White Park cow Highlea Daisy is a very special lady!   Daisy not only won her White Park class in a virtual heritage breed competition held in December 2020, but she was also awarded Reserve Champion across all the White Park classes.   But her list of achievements don’t stop there.  Daisy is one of only 3 registered White Park cattle living in New Zealand and she was born via embryo transfer out of a host New Zealand black dam.  Owners Justine (seen below) and Allan Rowlands are justifiably proud of their White Park animals and are hoping to expand their herd when current travel restrictions allow the transfer of further White Park embryos and semen over to New Zealand.

Volume 15 of the WPCS Herd Book is now available

Volume 15 of the White Park Cattle Society Herd Book is now available for purchase by non-members of the Society for £5.   This edition of our Herd Book lists all of the registrations of pedigree White Park cattle which were processed by our office during the years 2016 to 2019.  Birth notified and unregistered animals do not appear in the herd book.

The herd book also contains details of transfers and herd prefixes, as well as information on the breed profile.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Volume 15 of the WPCS Herd Book please contact the Breed Secretary, Jane Hampson, on [email protected] or tel: 01926 632560.

Our Society magazine can also be included with the herd book free of charge.

New book on quest to conserve rare breeds

The preservation of our genetic resources – our biological diversity – is an essential ingredient of sustainable life on Earth, and not something we can afford to lose. A new book written by the President of the White Park Cattle Society, Lawrence Alderson CBE, challenges often repeated ‘facts’ about livestock farming, straight from the horse’s mouth.   Rare breeds expert Lawrence argues for a reasoned and evidence-based approach from political and public circles.  He recounts the creation and development of the rare breed conservation movement, addresses extinctions and genetic safe-guarding measures, and considers where we go from here.

Challenged as we are by climate change, sustainability and feeding the world, perhaps it is these endangered animals that hold the answer.

The Quest to Conserve Rare Breeds is priced at £29.99 and can be ordered from the website of the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International.

Tribute to Bernard Hartshorn, former Chair of the White Park Cattle Society

We heard with great sorrow that Bernard Hartshorn passed away on 27th May in hospital where he had been ill for some time. Many members will recall the excellent Open Days which he hosted at Wimpole Home Farm. The remarkable docility of the White Park cattle and other breeds in a National Trust centre open to the public were a tribute to his understanding and handling of livestock.

Under his sympathetic management the Ash herd of White Park cattle earned an enviable reputation in the breed. He produced a succession of bulls that contributed a powerful improving influence and raised the status of the herd. Lucien, Larry, Michael, Niknak and Poplar are names that appear in the pedigree of many excellent animals.

I spent a great deal of time with Bernard during the years he was active in the Society. It was an immense pleasure to work with him. He was knowledgeable but always ready to listen and discuss; congenial and relaxed company but never forgot the task in hand whether it was a bull inspection or organisation of an Open Day. He exerted a huge influence, and both we and the cattle owe him a great debt.

He was chairman of the Society for six years (1998 – 2004). They included the difficult BSE and FMD crises when his calm authority was invaluable. His White Park work, and his wider farming activities, involved the whole family. His wife, Shirley who predeceased him, was secretary of the Society for seventeen years, and his daughter, Marie, for five years. Our deepest sympathy and condolences are with her and her family.

Lawrence Alderson, CBE
President, White Park Cattle Society 

Semen straws from new White Park bull are now available

Collection of semen from a Pass Plus White Park bull was completed by UK Sires in April 2020.

Chartley Miles (below) is a quiet bull who behaved impeccably during his stay in Devon for the semen collection.

Straws from Chartley Miles have been approved for world-wide export and are available to order from the Society office at a cost of £10 each.  UK Sires will also charge a despatch fee.

To order straws please contact the Society Secretary, Jane Hampson, on [email protected]

The Society also has semen straws available from two other Pass Plus bulls – Crane Majestic and Broadecton Clayton.  Please visit this page for full details.

New Agriculture Bill recognises importance of native breeds

The new Agriculture Bill which is currently passing through Parliament has given a commitment to support our native livestock (such as White Park cattle) and equines.  The Bill recognises that our native breeds have a low environmental footprint, high welfare standards and provide premium produce, as well as being a major part of our national heritage.   The Chief Executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust has commented on this new development as below:

Biography of White Park Cattle Society President

A new book entitled ” Anarchy or Establishment” was published at the end of May 2019.  The biography is 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 – our very own President, Lawrence Alderson.

Lawrence has dedicated much of his life to saving traditional native breeds and was founder president of Rare Breeds International and the founder, scientific consultant, director and chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.  He is an eternal optimist with a ‘glass half full’ attitude to life, always looking for positive opportunities even when the outlook is bleak. His smiling northern sense of humour has carried him through many farming disasters such as Foot and Mouth Disease.

“Anarchy or Establishment” is 224 pages long and has 145 photos.  It retails at £25 and is available to order from Hayloft Publishing on [email protected] or 079 713 524 73.