First pedigree British White Cattle calf born at Blenheim Estate
One of 12 baby calves, linked to the ancient British White cattle breed, has been born at the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a reintroduction programme.
A pedigree British White Cattle calf has been born at Blenheim Estate as part of a reintroduction programme. It is one of seven to be born at the Oxfordshire site in recent days, with another six on the way, ready to join the existing herd.
The herd was introduced into an ancient oak woodland on the 2,000-acre Oxfordshire estate known as High Park three years ago, to trample undergrowth and clear spaces for acorns from the ancient oaks to germinate and grow.
Head Shepherd Tom Locke said, “With lots of hard work and estates like ours, it means these rare breeds won’t be lost and it’s incredibly heart-warming to see. It’s my first calving season on the Estate so I’m looking forward to watching the calves grow up.”
The reintroduction of the cattle is part of the estate’s Land Strategy plan that seeks to utilise and open up access to the 12,000-acre estate over the coming decades. High Park is home to the greatest number of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe. Around 90% of the woodland is made up of oak trees and it is thought that at least 60 of them date back to the Middle Ages.
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“We wanted a heritage breed that would complement the Estate,” said Locke. “In the end we decided to go with the native British White Cattle as they claim direct links with the ancient indigenous wild white cattle of Great Britain.
“The ancient connection was important to us as our Estate has some of the oldest oaks in Europe, some of which were planted over 1000 years ago during the reign of Henry I.
In the past 100 years, the total number of herds has slowly increased from just 7, totalling 150 cows, to more than 116 different herds, containing 1,500 registered cattle, throughout the UK.
The calf's mother, Ava, is doing well.
Tanya Jackson is the acting group digital editor of countryfile.com and discoverwildlife.com. She loves campfire cooking, swimming in the sea, trail running, rural folklore, barn owls and red kites, hiking with the kids and looking for signs of ancient settlements in the Wiltshire hills where she lives. Tanya also has a passion for English food and drink, and loves uncovering the stories of the land as told through local produce.