Senepol cattle at Castle Nugent Farms, St. Croix USVI
(If you are a rancher looking for Caroline Gasperi’s website on Castle Nugent Senepol, click here!)
The big, gentle red cows you will see dotting the hills and wandering up by the fences around Longford Hideaway vacation cottage are Castle Nugent Senepol cattle, now part of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) project.
Senepol are beef cattle (no, we don’t milk them!) and while the beef produced here at Longford/Castle Nugent is sold locally, the purpose of the ranch was to raise these animals as breeding stock, for export to other farms around the world, where they would seed production ranches. (The cattle flew on airplanes and sailed on ships!)
Senepol cattle spend most of their lives in the wild, giving birth in the wild, and eat only the grasses and plants that grow in our pastures. They are not tame animals, but they are bred for docility, and are used to seeing people. Younger animals are especially curious. Some of our bulls have been given nicknames, like “Chunky” and “Bruno.” Some of the more famous CN bulls have included “Longford”, “Blondie”, and “Beach Boy”.
Estate Longford was, for over forty years, part of Castle Nugent Farms, one of the top genetic breeding farms for Senepol in the world. Founded and owned by Dr. Mario and Caroline Gasperi in the 1960s, and managed by Kiko Gasperi, your host at Longford Hideaway, the Castle Nugent herds were donated in 2007 to the UVI AES program, which has reduced the herd sizes.
Artificial insemination technology over the 1990s reduced the need for the shipping of live animals, and Castle Nugent’s partner Prime Rate Ranch in Okeechobee, Florida has purchased many leading animals from the Castle Nugent lines over the years and is now the primary source of commercially available genetic material for Castle Nugent Senepol.
The Senepol breed, established on St. Croix in the early part of this century, was registered and introduced to the U.S. in the 70s, and in recent years has become one of the most sought after beef cattle in the ranching industry, particularly in Tropical and Sub-Tropical regions where heat tolerance is crucial. Here’s a more indepth article about the Senepol’s history on St. Croix at St. Croix This Week, Aug/Sept 2013 issue.
Known for its tender and low fat content meat, and an easily worked, amiable personality, the hornless red Senepol breed is the result of a cross between African N’Dama and English Red Poll cattle. The Red Poll has given the breed its tolerant disposition, lack of horns and bright red color while the N’Dama allows it to thrive in tropical, semi-arid environments.
Castle Nugent Farms bred Senepol from 1962 to 2007 on our ranch on St. Croix, the largest of the US Virgin Islands, a territory of the U.S. At Castle Nugent, genetics and free range kept the breed’s qualities at their highest level through the years. “Selection and improvement were the main goals on our ranch on the East end of St. Croix, (where climatic conditions are harsher than on the West end of the island) so as to always reach for the top in fertility, performance and conformation”, explained retired Ranch Manager Kiko Gasperi.
Much of the beef produced here at Castle Nugent was sold locally, and culled animals from the Research Station’s operation at Castle Nugent are still processed locally and are available at Annaly Farms Market on St. Croix. Popularity of Senepol and other grass-fed beef continues to rise as health conciousness does; more people are demanding non-grain-fed, GMO and hormone-free low-fat beef that is naturally rich in flavor and nutrients.
Exportation of Senepol, embryos and semen from Castle Nugent Farms for breeding purposes was steady during the last 10 years of commercial ranch operations, which ceased in 2007. Castle Nugent Farms was considered a Genetic Bank for the Senepol breed, and partner Prime Rate Ranch purchased a majority of the important specimens during that time. Live animal shipments were consistently intense in the last decade of operations to all the Sun Belt States (Florida through Texas) and Australia, with the result that CN brand was quite common on many ranches with Senepol cattle, and the genetics live on in a number of ranches worldwide.
For more information about Senepol cattle or to request a brochure, visit the following websites, or call or send address to:
Senepol Cattle Breeders Association
PO Box 429
O’Fallon, IL 62269
Art Martinez , Manager
Prime Rate Ranch
401 Miracle Mile, Suite 302
Miami, Florida 33134
Castle Nugent Farms
(website no longer updated, the farm has retired from commercial sales, but there is some good information about the breed here)