Thursday, 18 February 2010
By Crispin Caldicott
Overall conditions, such as climate and vegetation are critical to the suitability of a particular breed to an area. In the mild ‘damp’ winters of Northland, with nothing but clay underfoot, the lighter, smaller breeds have a distinct advantage for the smaller farm.
The Belted Galloway is relatively recent to these shores having been brought in in 1948, and the first herdbook started the next year. As their name suggests, they are a Scottish breed, that evolved in the 16th Century and hail from the south west of the country.
| The three 'Beltateers' at Tui Belted Galloway stud. |
This part of Scotland is just as austere as many upland parts, and the breed has withstood the worst of weather, and developed a good natural resistance to disease.
They have a double coat, around 4000 hairs to the square inch, consisiting of a thick soft undercoat, excellent for insulation and a longer, shaggier ‘overcoat’ which deflects the rain.
This ‘natural armour’ means they are well protected against heat and mosquitos in the summer, and will allow them to maintain their body weight in winter without too much supplementary feed, if any.
‘Belties’ are natural browsers and will thrive on vegetation most other breeds would normally overlook. They are a beef breed but a strong maternal instinct and easy calving have meant they have been used as dual purpose given their easy and abundant milk. Easy calvers too, the normal calf weight is between 30-35kg. Bulls grow to an average of 800kg and cows to around 570/80kg.
Another big plus, according to one breeder from Scotland who now runs a small herd in Canterbury, is that Belted Galloways are naturally polled.
Carole Millar from Skean Dhu Belted Galloway Stud said she was looking for a smaller breed, and was very attracted to Highlands, which have similar hardy traits.
However, Highlands carry horns, and as she put it, “I’ve seen too many near-misses at shows!” Usually, crossing ‘Belties’ with other breeds will perpetuate the hornless gene.
In addition to their lack of horns, Belties are a docile breed, known for their natural fertility and longevity. Some reports say that 17-20 years is not uncommon and one cow in Australia reputedly produced three sets of consecutive twins.
Looked at from a purely economic perspective, Belties are very efficient and require less feed per kg of weight gain than almost any other breed.
They will also, according to some German tests consume a greater variety of grasses and flora than any other breed. Perhaps it is this that makes them such a flavoursome animal when on the table!
There could hardly be a more distinctive beast in the paddock than the Belted Galloway, and many have asked how it got to be that way.
It seems probable that the ‘belt’ came as a result of breeding Dutch Lakenvelder, or Laken, stock into the Galloway in the 17th or 18th century. However it happened it has produced a handsome animal. The ‘belt’ will usually cover the entire mid-portion of the animal, sometimes including the front of the udder.
So there we have the Belted Galloway – undoubtedly a breed with characterisitcs worth considering on the smaller farm. Perhaps the final word should go to William McCombie, one of the founding fathers of the modern Angus breed who said -
“The Galloway undoubtedly has many great qualifications. On poor land they are unrivaled, on land so poor our Aberdeens could not subsist upon it.
“There is no other breed worth more by the pound weight than a first-class Galloway. The Galloways are native to the country and incapable of improvement. The intelligent Galloway breeder is now perfectly satisfied that his stock can only be improved by adherence to the pure breed, and by care and selection.”