Reflections from a White Park owner
In November 2020 one of our members, Eric Bautsch, relocated lock, stock and barrel from the peak district of Derbyshire over the English Channel to Oradour-St-Genest, which is in Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in west-central France. The family is now living on a 170-acre holding, with their 9 White Park cattle and 30 Highland cattle. As you can imagine, the move took a great deal of organisation and Eric has kindly written us an article about the journey. Over to Eric . . .
The first step of our big move to France was to transport the cattle (3 White Park females, 3 young bulls, 3 heifers and 30 Highlands), which were picked up in Derbyshire on the morning of 3 November. The transport being used was a triple decker articulated lorry of which only 2 decks are used for cattle. The decks are on an elevator system on rails and chains, so the cattle walk in at ground level and then the internal partition doors are closed and the whole floor moves up one level, before the next cattle are loaded. All 39 cattle travelled in the same lorry.
Not only was the driver a nice guy, but he clearly cared for the cattle. This was evidenced when he was helping load them. I like to give my cattle the time to do things at their speed and the driver was fantastic: very calm, really good with the animals with plenty of patience.
Getting the lorry out of the farm once loaded was a bit interesting: because of the steep slope on the farm, the weight of the lorry with cattle and the fact that it was wet, we ended up having to use 2 tractors to pull the truck up the hill. Good job I had great neighbours in Derbyshire!
By the time we managed to set off it was gone lunch time and we had an appointment to be at the Eurotunnel terminal for a 19:20 departure. I ended up driving my car through the night with our 4 dogs, and we arrived at our temporary home in France around 8am. I was pretty worried about the cattle to be honest and expected them to be in a bad humour after such a long journey! In the event, my worries proved unfounded: the cattle just walked off the truck leisurely and started comfortably grazing the green grass. In the UK they had already been on silage for a month or more.
The vendor of the new farm had kindly agreed that we could put the cattle on the land despite the purchase not having gone through completely yet. We had plenty of fun with fences, which all looked great, but it turned out that the stakes were rotten in the ground; so, the cattle just looked at them and they fell over. Cue: frantic fencing activity. I also had to construct the cattle handling facilities as soon as we arrived.
The paperwork relating to the export of the cattle was straightforward; the vet in England confirmed in advance that all the cattle looked healthy, and we had to have a clear TB test no older than 30 days in place (not the customary 60 days for movements). The transporter had to log their route in advance with Animal Health. In France there are no nation-wide requirements for importing of cattle, but in the Haute-Vienne region you need undertake a “prophylaxie” within 60 days of arrival and must worm them. The cattle are TB tested yet again and each animal has blood samples taken which are then analysed for BVD, Johnes, Brucellosis, IBR and leukosis.
Since our arrival, we have already had our first 2 White Park calves born in France, 1 heifer, 1 bull calf. Also, still to organise is someone who can AI the cows as I didn’t bring our White Park bull across with us. Going forward, I’m looking to purchase a young White Park bull calf with promise, so I can import him to France. He’s got the potential to be the base of the French branch of the White Park herd!
So, despite the upheaval of the move and the long list of jobs that we have set ourselves in our new home we are both very happy with our farm and the cattle are enjoying higher quality grass, and more of it, too…