With a growing interest in regenerative farming and a number of large estates introducing projects to restore biodiversity to the land, the White Park Cattle Society reports an upsurge in interest in the breed. This has been reinforced by the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain funding (BNG), giving landowners the opportunity to build an income stream by using their land as a delivery site for BNG.

Breed Secretary Jane Hampson says: “Numerically, the breed has remained stable over the last five years and we currently have around 1,000 females in the UK. However, we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from landowners who are trying to source White Parks for their nature regeneration programmes and this new role can only be good for the long-term future of the breed.”

Setting an example of this ancient breed finding a role in modern-day farming is the Dynevor herd, formerly run by Lawrence Alderson, who has been one of the major forces behind the breed society. A member of the Working Party and Committee that established RBST, Lawrence was first Chair and then President of the White Park Cattle Society, serving a total of 35 years before stepping down in 2023.

The herd was originally located at Dynevor Castle in Wales, with records indicating that it was founded in the ninth century. By the 1960s, when the breed was at its lowest ebb, Dynevor was one of one of just four recorded herds remaining. When Lawrence Alderson retired from active farming, he transferred custodianship of the herd to father and son Martin and Michael George, owners of the Blatherwycke Estate in Northamptonshire. Here, alongside a small existing White Park herd, the Dynevor herd is playing a crucial role in changes being made to the 3,000 acre estate.

The Georges run flour millers Whitworth Bros, which uses a huge amount of energy, and is looking to the estate to provide a carbon offset for the milling activities. One of the changes on the estate is the introduction of 200 acres of grassland in the 2,500 acre arable rotation, now being grazed by the White Parks, which also graze elsewhere on the estate. Efficient foragers and happy to graze even coarse grassland, the White Parks require very few additional inputs. While they are quite capable of living outside year-round, at Blatherwycke the White Parks are housed in October to protect the heavy land pastures from poaching. Indoors, they are fed haylage, made from some of the older pastures, some rolled barley and concentrates if needed.

Elsewhere in the country, White Parks are being used in a variety of landscape recovery projects. At Westacre in Norfolk, they are part of a project covering areas of lowland farming to restore biodiversity and create new nature-based enterprises.

Westacre covers an area of 8,500 acres and in 2020 it was decided to allocate 1,970 acres to rewilding to kick-start nature recovery and create an enhanced visitor experience. Alongside Exmoor ponies and Iron Age pigs, White Park cattle are performing a role in habitat management.

With many projects incorporating public access to a greater or lesser degree, the temperament of grazing animals can be a key concern – and with their impressive sets of horns, White Parks may not seem an obvious choice. However, Henry Rusch, who took on the role of breed society Chair in 2023, knows from personal experience that White Parks have the ideal temperament. Henry runs 40 White Parks on his 128-acre Broad Ecton Farm at Ashbourne. He says: “We are in the Peak District and we have no problem in keeping cows and a bull in fields where we have footpaths. The word I would use to describe them is ‘placid’.”

Looking to the future of the breed and the breed society, Henry says: “The White Park Cattle Society exists to maintain the complete integrity of the White Park DNA. We have a unique native breed with a significant history and our aim it to continue to raise its profile.

“With their excellent temperament, their ability to adapt to just about any environment and not be fussy about what they eat, White Parks are ideally suited to a wide range of landscape recovery or conservation projects. We are experiencing a huge amount of interest in the breed, which underlines that, although an ancient breed, they have a lot to offer to modern farming."

Photograph : Jessica Byrne Daniel