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Dutch Belted Cattle

Dutch Belted cow - photo by Jeannette BerangerThe Dutch Belted is a dairy cattle breed named for its country of origin and its striking color pattern: black with a bright white belt around its middle. In the Netherlands, it is also known as the Lakenvelder. The term laken means a sheet or blanket around the body. The Dutch Belted has been known in the Netherlands as a standardized breed since the 1700s. It was selected as a specialized dairy cow able to convert lush pastures and little grain supplementation into 12,000-15,000 pounds of rich milk per lactation period. For centuries, the Lakenvelder was bred and kept by the Dutch who were not fond of selling their prized cattle. Never a widely popular breed, the Dutch Belted suffered a large decrease in their European population during and after World War II. By 1950 only four or five herds were known to exist in Holland. In the 1970's semen from American bulls was imported back into Holland to try to revive the breed in its native home. As of 2007, numbers in Holland are on the increase but the breed is still considered extremely rare with a population of less than 1000 worldwide.

In America, the first importation of Dutch Belted cattle into the United States was made by the U.S. Consul of Holland, D.H. Haight of Goshen, New York, in 1838. He made two more importations of the breed in later years. Shortly thereafter in 1840, the famous showman P.T. Barnum imported these flashy cattle for use in his circus shows. The expert showman exhibited the animals as a "rare and aristocratic" breed in his circus. Barnum said of the cattle "They struck my fancy in Holland. I imported a few and then found their unique and novel appearance not their only quality, for they proved wonderful milkers, far superior to any other cattle to which my attention has been drawn." Barnum soon moved the exhibition herd to his farm in Orange County, New York. Following Barnum's importation, H.W. Coleman imported a small herd during 1848, which he placed on his estate in Pennsylvania. Another notable importation in later years was of a fine cow named "Peapack Dutchess" No. 1390 made by W.H. Lance of Peapack, New Jersey, in 1906. It was from these early importations that the Dutch Belted breed was established in the United States.

The Dutch Belted Cattle Association of America (DBCAA) was formed on February 4, 1886 in New York. N.W. Howell was elected President of the new association. H.R. Richards of Easton, Pennsylvania, was the first secretary of the organization –– subsequently serving for 25 years in the post. The first herdbook created by the association recorded a total of 31 herds in the U.S.

Dutch Belted cattle - photo by SVF FoundationBy the 1970s, the Dutch Belted breed neared global extinction. The DBCAA lapsed into inactivity, and only a few purebred breeders remained. Unfortunately, this decline coincided with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dairy buy‑out program of the 1980s, when thousands of dairy cattle were sold for beef as part of the national dairy herd reduction, designed to raise milk prices. Many Dutch Belted cattle were lost through this program. It was only through the action of a handful of breeders, especially Kenneth and Winifred Hoffman of Earlville, Illinois, that the Dutch Belted breed survived in the United States. Their work had a global impact as well, since semen from the Hoffmans'’bulls has been used in the Netherlands.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) began management of the Dutch Belted Cattle Association of America's registry in 1993. ALBC facilitated the Association's reorganization, providing the structure and representation necessary for the breed to survive. The DBCAA registry has established grade‑up and recovery programs to increase numbers in the breed. In the 1990's a revival of interest in the Dutch Belted breed began, chiefly among farmers interested in grass‑based dairying. As of 2007, the Dutch Belted is in a stronger position than it has been in several decades.

Dutch Belted cattle are black (or occasionally red) with a white belt. Bulls range up to 2000 pounds and cows from 900-1500 pounds. They have long horns that curve slightly upward at the points. The heads of Dutch Belted cattle are broad, but comparatively long and somewhat dished. Their bodies reflect the classic triple wedge shape of dairy cattle, with a straight top line, deep middle, long wide rump, and good spring of rib. They consistently demonstrate reproductive efficiency and longevity of production. Cows are known to be productive and producing calves well into their teen years.

NEWS

Dutch Belted Cattle Association of America and ALBC Announce New Purebred Herd Publications , 4/08

Status: See CPL

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