British White Cattle Characteristics and Attributes

The following information applies to purebred British White Cattle and therefore most crosses in Australia and USA will have varying degrees of these characteristics. Breeders and enthusiasts are cautioned to check blood percentages before making claims about particular cattle or herds. With the introduction of pure bred stock to Australia from the UK in 1984 and the availability of semen from approved British White bulls for general use in 1986, the following attributes will, in the near future become fully accepted.

British White have a high degree of heat tolerance and frequently sit or lie in the sun whilst other cattle seek a shady position. Their ability to withstand above average heat points means the breed are ideally suited to Australian climatic conditions, particularly over northern cattle breeding regions. Their strong black hooves hold their shape and housed stock seldom, if ever, require hoof paring.

Milking ability is a strong point in favour of the breed. British Whites were for many years an important feature of English dairy herds where regular flows were required with suitable butterfat levels. They have well set udders with minimum of fatty tissue and medium sized teats that hold their shape. There is less likelihood of unsucked quarters and generally there is a freedom from associated problems.

British Whites are naturally polled. Being a dominant gene, this feature is an advantage in mixed breeding programmes. The black points and pigmented skin eliminate the problems of eye cancer, sunburn or sunburnt teats and photosensitisation is unknown in this breed.

Excellent mothering ability by individual females, also incorporating the nursery system of a guard cow protecting groups of calves whiles the remainder of the herd grazes. Although this characteristic is known in some breeds of cattle, it is highly developed in British Whites and is of great benefit in areas where wild dogs or other predators are a concern.

Good temperament and showing a high degree of intelligence, British White in general are excellent to handle in the field or yards and at close quarters. Breeders wishing to prepare stock for shows will appreciate these attributes when feeding and handling under stall conditions.

Description of the Breed

A full description of the breed is as follows:

  • White coat on blue or dark pigmented skin
  • Black points, viz muzzle, nose, ears and eyelids
  • Teats of a cow, rudimentary teats of bulls
  • Legs with a splash of colour or spots of colour on the front of each fetlock
  • Black hooves and a black tongue is desirable

Some cattle appear in the breed with red points but still retain the foregoing makings. The Society makes no distinction on colour other than noting the red pointed animals.

British Whites are a healthy breed having resistance to tuberculosis and viral pneumonia, with no apparent tendencies to arthritis (UK). They are excellent foragers with an ability to convert lower grade pasture to maintain body weight and rear calves without difficulty.

Recent bull trials in Britain and steer trials in the USA show the British White holding their own against other breeds and in most instances have been ahead in weight gains and feed conversion ratios. Low back fat measurements combine with high quality fleshing is the feature required by cattle breeders, butchers and consumers.

The British White is prepotent in a number of areas, one being the colour marking ability. A high incidence of true colour occurs in cattle with less than 25% of British White blood. This characteristic is of great benefit in regions where cattlemen prefer white haired stock for sun reflection; an added advantage being pigmentation. Longevity is a feature of the breed combined with excellent breeding records. Various government and private bodies have sought to increase twinning rates in different breeds of cattle with mixed success. The British White is one of the few breeds in the world having a natural high percentage of twins per herd average.