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Senepol Cattle

In 1800, N’Dama Cattle (a Bos Taurus), was imported from Senegal to St. Croix. After centuries in Senegal, this breed had developed resistance against heat and parasites. In 1918, the N’Dama was mixed with Red Poll, in order to achieve a breed with better maternal instincts, earlier sexual maturity and an absence of horns; by 1940 the Senepol breed had been established as a pure breed.

Senepol Bulls

USDA research indicates that Senepol have greater immune response when compared to other beef breeds. This is due greatly to the N’Dama influence in Senepol, and is also aided by generations of natural selection being applied on the island of St. Croix.

Outstanding characteristics of the Senepol breed:

  • Grazes during the hottest time of the day
  • Does not get tired after a day of work
  • Able to survive several days without water

USDA research establishes the cooler temperatures maintained by Senepol compared to Brahman, Angus and Hereford cows while grazing during the summer months in Florida. The same study revealed that F1 Senepol calves (both Hereford-sired out of Senepol cows, and Senepol-sired out of Hereford cows) maintained rectal temperatures almost identical to full blood Senepol. Senepol posses heat tolerance, and they pass it on in crossbreeding programs.

Grazing studies performed at the USDA Subtropical Research Station, Brooksville, Fla., during a two summers time period concluded that Senepol grazed an average of 10.7 hours per day as compared to 9.3 hours a day for Hereford cattle – a grazing advantage of 1.4 hours/day. This adds to Senepol’s advantage in foraging ability and easy-fleshing traits.

Gentle by nature, intelligent and easy to handle

  • Calves without assistance under tropical conditions
  • Birth weight average between 29 to 36 kilograms (65 to 80 lbs.)
  • Produce 11.3 kilograms (25 lbs.) of milk per day
  • 268 days of lactation

Senepol cows are moderate-sized, and exhibit excellent fleshing and foraging ability. Mature cows average 1000 to 1,200 lbs., and consistently wean off 50% or better of their body weight while maintaining an efficient calving interval.

  • They reproduce at 2 to 3 years, at 12 month intervals
  • They have 13 to 15 calves during their lifetime
  • Early maturity, compared to other tropical cattle
  • At eight months, weight is 236 kilograms (500 lbs.)
  • Between 12 and 14 months, weight is 364 to 386 kilograms (800 to 850 pounds)

USDA research indicates that Senepol have greater immunity when compared to other beef breeds.

USDA research indicates that Senepol have greater immunity when compared to other beef breeds. This is due greatly to the N’Dama influence in Senepol, and is also aided by generations of natural selection being applied on the island of St. Croix.

15 to 20 years production.

Cattleman who visit St. Croix for the first time are continually amazed at the number of 15 to 20 year-old cows that are still in production. Often overlooked, perhaps no characteristic is as “multiple-trait” oriented, or as meaningful to the overall profitability of a cow-calf operator as longevity.

Senepol are similar to Angus in calving ease and light birth weights. The huge advantage they offer is tremendous calf vigor. Breeders everywhere are proud of the increased survival of Senepol-sired calves because they jump up and nurse quickly.

Senepol and Senepol-cross steers have excelled repeatedly in Nebraska, Colorado, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas panhandle feedlots.

For example, Jim Barron’s Spur Headquarters Ranch fed more than 2,000 F1 Senepool-cross steers. With 146 days on feed, the collective averages were; death loss of 0.28%, ADG of 3.62 lbs./day and dry matter conversion of 6.74 lbs. Feed / lb gain.

The History of Senepol Cattle

A Crucian Breed

It all started a long time ago in 1860 when a man named George Elliott decided to import 60 Senegalese (N’Dama) heifers and two bulls from Senegal West Africa. Mr. Henry Nelthropp, owner of Granard Estates, immediately started buying offspring from Elliott and by 1889 the herd at Granard Estate had grown to 250 cattle. Henry’s son, Albert, who kept the herd pure by not breeding outside the farm, was managing the farm. Although the N’Dama were very sturdy cows with a high resistance to heat and disease, they were not good milk producers.

Bromley Nelthropp, Albert’s brother, started to consider how he could produce a breed with the qualities of the N’Dama yet be good milk producers. His opportunity to produce this new breed came in late 1918 when he took a trip down island to Trinidad. At this point in history the records vary with regards to the Red Pol bull which Bromley found and purchased in Trinidad. One account of the transaction states that the bull Bromley purchased was named “Captain Kidd” and was renamed to “Douglas” by Bromley when he brought the bull back to St. Croix. This differs from a hand written note from one of the Nelthropp’s, that clearly states that the bull purchased by Bromley was named “Sultan”, and weighed 2,200 pounds and had 8 inch horns. The note goes further to state that the bull was not a pure breed but instead had been the offspring of a cross with a Mysor cow from India.

Whichever account is accurate, the events that followed this purchase were the beginnings of the Senepol breed. When Bromley returned to St. Croix, he used this new bull to breed with the Senegalese N’Dama herd, which produced an offspring, which was heat and disease resistant, yet has good milk producing qualities. Bromley continued to selectively breed the new cows and eventually ended up with a cow with no horns, a solid red color, and a gentle disposition.

With the exception of introducing some Brahman and Red Devon breeds to his herd shortly after bringing Douglas from Trinidad, Bromley closed the herd until 1942.

In 1942, Bromley purchased a Red Pol bull named “Doctor” from Estate Tutu in St. Thomas and started using “Doctor” to breed the existing herd. This new breed was known as Nelthropp Cattle, but was also sometimes referred to as the Crucian Breed and St. Croix Cattle.

During the period from 1942-1949, Bromley started selling some of his Nelthropp cattle to some of the other N’Dama breeders on the island, occasionally purchasing back some of the better off-spring that these breeders produced.

In 1954, the breed was registered in Puerto Rico and the United States as the “St. Croix Senepol”, a name derived from the Senegal stock and the Red Pol stock. In 1977, the Virgin Islands Senepol Association of St. Croix was formed. The associations’ primary objectives were the development, registration, and promotion of the Senepol breed by promoting and maintaining high breeding standards with emphasis placed on heat tolerance, fertility, and docility.

As word of this sturdy breed got out to the world, breeders began coming to St. Croix to purchase stock to breed elsewhere. Starting in 1977, the local cattle farmers have been selling stock and shipping the cattle off island. Now after 20 years of exporting the Senepol, there are over 500 breeder’s worldwide and 14,000 Senepol records. The Senepol breed is now found in 21 states and countries such as Mexico, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and Venezuela.

The two major Senepol farms remaining on St. Croix are the Annaly Farm and the Cattle Nugent Farm. Although the herds which remain on St. Croix have dwindled, cattle farming remains the main agricultural product of the islands.

Article first seen in St. Croix Homes Magazine.

Celebrating 25 Years of senepol