Albion cattle have been formally recognised as a native UK cattle breed for the first time since the 1960’s.
This is due to the efforts of the small handful of breeders, with the breed also welcomed onto the Watchlist by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), who list them as a very rare, native UK breed. The dual-purpose breed, used for both dairy and beef, was on the verge of extinction in the 1960’s after the foot and mouth outbreak which swept the UK. This and the increased import of Holstein and other dairy cattle for use in the dairy industry led to the almost complete decimation of Albion cattle populations.
The breed has, however, been saved from extinction thanks to the efforts of the small handful of breeders who began swapping bulls to keep the breed from becoming inbred. They have successfully increased Albion cattle populations to 170-strong this year, while they are also looking to increase the breed's popularity further.
“They are just a wonderful breed; so pleasing to the eye, with lovely temperaments; it is great to honour the debt of the Albion breeders of the past and now to be able to carry these genetics forward.” Said Susannah Mannerings, Secretary of the Albion Cattle Society, who inherited a herd of Albion's from her mother, Dinah Whittingham, 8 years ago.
Picture Below - Albion cattle society.
“Here at RBST we proudly boast that no breed has become extinct since we formed in 1973, but we could so easily could have been proven wrong by failing to recognise these cattle. The Albions have had a dramatic reversal of fortune since their heyday in the 1920s, but we hope that this recognition will herald the start of a new chapter for the breed.” Gail Sprake, Chairman of Rare Breeds Society Trust.
The current Albion breeders have been joined this year by a new Albion enthusiast, Adam Henson, who purchased a herd which now resides at Cotswold Farm Park. The National Trust also tend to an historic herd at High Lickbarrow near Windermere, one which can be viewed by the public.
Picture below - ntlakesoutdoors.org.uk
But what are Albion Cattle?
They are originally from the Derbyshire and are believed to be the result of crossing a Welsh Black with a White Dairy Shorthorn.
The resulting blue cow gained a great reputation and was desired for both dairy and beef production, a true dual-purpose breed. The breed was once known as the Bakewell Blues and the Blue Albions, though the ‘Blue’ was recently dropped from their official name by the Albion cattle society. The breed was first officially recognised as a breed in 1921 upon the formation of the Blue Albion Cattle society, as it was known.
The breed were sought after for their blue colouration, with full black and white Albion bulls rejected from entry to the herd book. This led to a slow growth in numbers and now the majority of herds are kept as beef Suckler cows.
The breed are best known for this blue colouration of their coat, but they were also famed for their milking abilities and beefiness. Albion cattle crossed with dairy breeds are such as Holsteins or a Dairy Shorthorn are said to make an excellent dairy cow, but with higher valued calves for the beef industry.
Beef breeds crossed with Albion cattle are said to make excellent Suckler cows, as they are hardy, have good milk, an excellent temperament, with good legs and feet.
For further information on the breed visit the Albion Cattle Society website here.
Main Picture - Albion cattle society.