What could be a better setting for one of the world’s most remarkable looking heritage breeds of cattle, but a national sale in one of the oldest towns in Oxford County, Maine?

The 26th annual National Belted Galloway Sale and the Northeast Regional Junior National Belted Galloway Show will be at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in Fryeburg, Maine, April 21-24. When the event kicks off, the barns will open to exhibitors. The event is held in conjunction with the Fryeburg Youth Show – the largest youth show in the Northeast.

What is a Galloway?

Almost all European cattle are descendants of a breed of wild bovine called Bos taurus. That, along with the South Asian continent line of Bos indicus, are derived from an ancient animal called Bos primigenius or aurochs. Domestication of these wild beasts occurred thousands of years ago. Since then, at least 800 breeds of cattle have emerged worldwide, mostly as a result of human selection for desirable traits of color, temperament, milking ability and meat quality, but also for environmentally desired attributes.

One of those breeds was the Galloway, the progenitor of the belted Galloway, or “Oreo cow.”

It is believed that the foreign Gaels (Vikings of Scandinavian and Celtic origins) brought the black cattle that later became known as the Galloway to the southwestern coast of Scotland’s District of Galloway in the ninth century.

Royal preferences for uniquely marked cattle coat colorations are well documented in the histories of noble families from Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Holland, and their selective breeding practices are credited for developing many of these distinctively marked European cattle breeds. But the role of environmental influences cannot be overlooked in the Galloway’s development. The Galloway breed evolved in the rugged mountains of southwestern Scotland where harsh winter conditions influenced the breed’s coat development. Double haired, the long strands protect Galloway cattle from harsh climatic conditions. They have long guard hairs on their outercoat that overlay a noticeably thicker undercoat not seen in other European cattle except Highlands.

Read more: Is she swatting a fly or getting ready to calve?

The double coat trait is also present in the belted Galloways and gives them the ability to retain heat and retain gain, during cold, harsh winter conditions. During the summer, this double coat also gives them another gainsaver over single-coated cattle. Research at the University of Arkansas (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9330257) in the late ’90s determined that cattle with more hair follicles per square inch secrete more of a naturally occurring fly repellent from those hair follicles. That is a selling point and one more reason to consider buying some “Beltie” stock at this upcoming national breed sale.

How did they get that belt?

The belted Galloway, red Galloway and white Galloway likely evolved sometime in the 16th century in Scotland from the solid black-colored Galloway and presumably a cross with a Dutch Belted dairy breed called the Lakenvelder, a name also used to describe a Dutch-bred belted rooster. However the white belt on black-, red- or dun-colored cattle came about, selective breeding for this dominant trait has created three desirable heritage breeds. In New England and elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, the 300-year-old Belted Galloway is gaining in popularity.

This heifer is one of the belties available in the national sale on April 21-24.

Naturally polled

Delving into the DNA of livestock pedigrees, cattle have 30 chromosomes of which the first 22 are autosomal traits inherited in pairs, one from the sire and one from the dam. The traits for coat color and polled versus horned heads are located here. Some breeds are heterozygous for horn development, meaning they may or may not produce horns, while others, like purebred Belted Galloways, are homozygous polled. While it is known that the ancient Galloway cattle of the 16th century did have horns, the polled trait had begun to appear at that time and by 1862 polled herd books began to influence breed registries like the Galloway. All registered belted Galloways are guaranteed polled with five generations of pedigrees required in order for the animal to be registered.

Scurs are another genetic anomaly entirely. They can develop in naturally polled cattle, but this genetic expression is not related to horn expression. In the “Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in 1904,” the Galloway society investigated and reported that to their knowledge only three animals in the history of the breed group had ever shown scurs. The society took it upon themselves to make it a rule that no animal with scurs could be entered in the registry. That selectivity still shows in the purebred bloodlines of the belted Galloway breed and no scurred animals are allowed to be registered.

How are their numbers?

The Livestock Conservancy organization (in Pittsboro, North Carolina) lists cattle breeds of concern as “Critical,” “Threatened,” “Watch,” “Recovering” and “Study Once.” While the Galloway breed remains on their “Watch” list, and the Dutch Belted dairy breed is listed as “Critical” with very few numbers remaining worldwide, the belted Galloway registry in the U.S. has reached a milestone in herd numbers and is now officially in the “Recovering” category.

Read more: From hardy breed to belted jerky

Who breeds them?

The Belted Galloway Society represents a significant number of individuals who are dedicated to breeding and marketing belted Galloways with 18,782 head of cattle registered with the group in the U.S. at the close of 2015. While that may not seem a big number, given that the top five breeds in the country (Angus, Hereford, Gelbvieh, Limousin and Simmental) register 40,000 head annually, it is a significant benchmark for a heritage breed that was recently listed by the Livestock Conservancy as one of its internationally rare and threatened breeds of concern.

Many European belted Galloway herds, along with other European heritage livestock breeds, were decimated by outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in 2001. Some 6 million sheep, swine and cattle were ordered destroyed in the 2001 epidemic. Although the United Kingdom is considered free of this disease now and the belted Galloway as a breed has recovered there, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the European Union are still discussing the animal health requirements for moving live cattle between the U.S. and the European Union. The time frame for the completion of these negotiations is still not known.

The U.S. has been free of this depopulating notifiable disease since the year 1929. Thanks to regional groups like the New England Belted Galloway that are dedicated to promoting the breed, the U.S. and Canada have a large enough genetic pool of registered belted Galloways to continue expanding herd numbers in North America while the European restrictions remain in effect.

Youth Show events

The belted Galloway as a show animal is very popular and hundreds of junior members show and sell the breed nationwide. More than 130 kids throughout the northeastern U.S., Canada and even out West are expected to participate in the joint gathering of the Fryeburg Youth Show and Northeast Regional Junior National Belted Galloway Show this year. The Youth Show is open to all youth from ages 6 to 21. You must be 6 years old as of Jan. 1, 2016, or not older than 21 as of Jan. 1, 2016.

With more than 200 head of cattle anticipated on site, showgoers can compare favorite breeds and see the genetics of the Belted Galloway at their best. Many events are designed to teach kids the art of showmanship as well as skills used in marketing and selling. The photo contest includes monetary awards.

Entry fees

There is a nonrefundable $5 entry fee per animal and an additional $10 entry
fee for all late entries (postmarked after April 18, 2016). Total fees for late
entries are $15 per animal. For additional entry fees and specific breed and
class entry rules, check the show rules page at http://www.fryeburgyouthshow.com/schedule.

Can’t make the show?

Register with DV Auction services (up to three days before the event) at http://www.dvauction.com/contact, by calling (402) 316-5460 or by emailing dva@ dvauction.com to bid online. You can make arrangements for a professional handler to walk you through the consignments, bid for you and make sure your heifer or bull is loaded and shipped to your door. Tom Carper, auctioneer, will be the agent onsite for all sale consignments. For details on the event, lodging, directions and sights to see in the area, visit http://www.fryeburgfair.org, http://www.fryeburgyouthshow.com, http://www.beltie.org/calendar-of-events.php and any Fryeburg, Maine, or Conway, New Hampshire tourism websites.

Breed promotion

The Belted Galloway Society’s mission since 1951 has been to promote and preserve the purity of this heritage breed first introduced to the U.S. in 1939. Members are dedicated to registering and promoting the breed. For more information on the healthy food aspects of belted Galloway beef, visit the society’s page, “About the Beef: Statistics on Beltie Beef” (http://www.beltie.org/belted-galloway-beef.php).

2016 sale lineup

There will be pre-consigned belties available from multiple breeders. All animals will have a current State of Maine Health Certificate and meet any appropriate interstate transport of livestock requirements. Contact Scot Adams, sale coordinator, for more information at http://www.newenglandgallowaygroup.com/national-beltie-sale.html.

Read more: Lean and Mean: the National Belted Galloway Sale Enters its 25th Year


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