Longhorns impress cattle enthusiast

Isla-Jean (left), Lindsay and Fiona Tregonning with their two English Longhorn calves.  Photo by Craig Baxter.
Isla-Jean (left), Lindsay and Fiona Tregonning with their two English Longhorn calves. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Lindsay Tregonning jokes he could have bought a jet-boat or gone on holiday instead of purchasing English Longhorn cattle embryos from the United Kingdom. But the long-time beef cattle enthusiast was intrigued by the breed, regarded as the oldest pure breed of cattle in England.

He had seen them on the internet and loved the look of them.

The first attempt at breeding, using semen, was unsuccessful and it was decided to have a crack at some embryo transplants.

When it came to calving time at the Tregonning farm at Woodside, near Outram, last November, there was great excitement, as Mr Tregonning, his wife Isla-Jean and daughter Fiona awaited the arrival of what they believed to be the first purebred English Longhorn cattle to be born in New Zealand.

A heifer and a bull calf, both derived from embryos implanted by specialist embryo transplant veterinarian Neil Sanderson, duly arrived and did not disappoint. Mr Tregonning was particularly impressed by their growth rates.

According to the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand's website, the Longhorn is regarded as the oldest pure breed of cattle in England.

Its origin is obscure but, historically, the breed was abundant, especially in the northern counties. It was

imported extensively into Ireland at an early period.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Longhorns were an ideal all-purpose breed for the period. Their size and power, coupled with a quiet temperament made them ideal as draught animals and their milk was especially suited for making butter and cheese. When Longhorns were no longer in demand as working animals, their numbers decreased rapidly as specialist beef breeds became more widespread.

By the mid-20th century their numbers were dangerously reduced, but they have since been saved from extinction by the efforts of enthusiasts.

The Longhorn was named for its extra-long, typically down-curving, horns. It should not be confused with the Texas Longhorn, which is a quite different and unrelated breed.

Mr Tregonning believed the breed was ideal for small properties and they seemed to handle rougher feed without fertiliser. While they ''looked pretty'', they were also ''a decent beef animal''.

He was keen to get some other unrelated embryos and build up the numbers. While there were English Longhorns in Australia, if they could get some different bloodlines, then that would give them a different market.