Reflections from a White Park owner
The popularity of owning White Parks continues to spread across the UK. One of our members is Manx Rare Breeds of the Isle of Man. Paul Davis has been kind enough to write the following article to let us know why he chose to establish a White Park herd and to give us an update on the their journey from Thame market to the Isle of Man.
Manx Rare Breeds Ltd was established late in 2012 with the aim of establishing an “Ark” of endangered British domestic farm animals on the Isle of Man. We believe that the Irish Sea provides a natural barrier to the spread of disease, and that in the event of a calamity like the last foot and mouth epidemic, we have the ability to house and nurture breeding animals that could help with the re-generation of British stocks.
Not every breed thrives in the cold, windy Manx climate but the hardy White Park is one breed which is suited to living on the island. After researching the breed we became aware of the dispersal sale of the Collegewood Herd of White Parks and decided to send a representative to attend the sale at Thame market. At the end of the day we had acquired 17 animals, including a stock bull and one youngster. The animals were moved at the end of the sale to our assembly farm in Uttoxeter. We then embarked on the normal round of testing, quarantine and isolation prior to shipment to the Isle of Man.
On the appointed day in Autumn, our Manx trucker showed up with his slightly shorter vehicle and found that, due to the horns, only 14 cattle could be loaded. They set off across the Irish sea on a blustery day, arriving late at night at our signature farm, Ballaloaghtan close to South Barrule. Thus began a series of surprises.
The first surprise, a happy one, was enjoyed when watching the ladies eat (our bull was one of the three left behind in Staffordshire). They like rough, coarse vegetation and were happily trimming down the reeds in preference to the grass. This is a major bonus for us, as due to the very wet conditions on our southerly-exposed land, reeds are a real problem and we expend serious amounts of money on topping and spraying. Imagine not only having animals that top the reeds, but also as a result need less fodder in winter time!
The ladies settled in and at testing time, we were happy to know that of the 14, 12 were in calf. Then began the wait for the early calvers, expected in January. Right on schedule, the first heifer went into labour on Saturday, January 18th, and produced a healthy calf late in the evening. But – shock, horror – the little boy is jet black, from nose to tail. We first assumed there had been an intruder in the bulling process, but a flurry of texts, calls and some work on Google demonstrated what all other members probably know – there is a recessive gene, probably from Vaynols in the year dot, which occasionally produces black calves. So we have a rarity not an alien in our midst!
In early March 2014, when the weather had settled down and crossings were possible again, we re-united our stock bull and the last remaining mother and calf with the rest of the herd.