LECTURE NO. 40
DEVON CATTLE - THEIR ORIGIN AND HISTORY
- The Devons are one of the most ancient and pure of the distinct breeds of cattle found in Great Britain.
- They belong to the middle horned class, and are supposed to be descended from the same aboriginal breed as the Herefords and the Sussex.
- The most ancient records tend to show that they have been bred without admixture from time immemorial, in parts of Devonshire and Somerset.
- They now occupy, with little exception, the whole of the district from Dartmoor forest to the Bristol channel, and from West Somerset to Cornwall.
- Good herds of the breed were established early in the century in the shires of Leicester, Gloucester and Shropshire, and in some other parts of England.
- Individual herds have also been established at various other points in England and in Ireland, but not to the extent of becoming the prevailing breed, and
- Where they were supplanted for a time in the south of England by other breeds, as Shorthorns and Herefords, they are again regaining the ground lost.
- Of all the British breeds they had the greatest reputation as grazers a century ago, hence
- The precedence given them in the prize lists of the Smithfield Cattle Club, and of the Bath and West of England Society.
- At that time the North Devon was considered the breed par excellence for small bones and high quality.
- They were also very popular as oxen, owing to their activity, combined with their staying powers.
- It cannot be said that the name of any one person stands out supremely conspicuous as the great improver of Devons, as improvement was effected by a number of persons working simultaneously and more or less in concert.
- Prominent among the early improvers stand the names of Francis Quartly of Champson, Molland; John T. Davy of Rose Ash; Walter Farthing of Stowey Court, Bridgewater; and the Earl of Leicester of Helkham, Leicestershire.
- In several instances Devons have been bred in the same families for at least 50 years.
- The high prices paid for meat early in the century, while the wars with France continued, tempted many breeders to part with their best animals.
- This led to a lowering of the average standard of excellence in many herds, but
- The equilibrium has again been restored, largely through the establishment of agricultural societies and the demand for good breeding stock.
- Devon cattle were early distinguished as North and South Devon respectively, the latter variety being also known as South Hams and Somersets.
- The North Devon was the smaller variety, their coat was softer and more curly, and they were more distinguished for their fleshing properties.
- The South Devons, supposed to contain a dash of Guernsey blood were of larger size and of coarser appearance, and were more distinguished for milk production.
- These have been so intercrossed in many instances as to obliterate the distinguishing marks of the two classes.
- Exportation to the United States.
- The first well authenticated importation of Devon cattle was made into the United States by Robert Patterson of Baltimore, Md., in 1817.
- They came from the herd of the Earl of Leicester, Holkham, and a very large number of the Devons now in the United States trace to this importation.
- From 1817 onward, importations have been frequent until quite recently.
- Exportation to other countries.
- Devons were imported somewhat freely into Ontario, Can., shortly after the middle of the century, but they have not prevailed to any considerable extent in that country.
- They have also been introduced into Jamaica, Mexico, the Cape of Good Hope, Australia and New Zealand.
- Herd books.
- The first volume of the English Devon Herd Book, edited by J. Tanner Davy, was published in 1851.
- The first volume of the American Devon Herd Book was published in 1863.
- The first volume of the American Devon Record was published in 1881.
- Registrations are also kept in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
- Distribution in the United States.
- Devons are kept in every state in the Union, save North Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona, hence,
- They are more generally distributed than any breed largely devoted to meat making except the Shorthorns.
- They are most numerous in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas, and probably in the order named.
- Registration in the United States.
- Six volumes of the American Devon Record have been issued.
- There have been recorded 18,843 animals, of which 6902 are bulls and 11,941 are cows.
LECTURE NO. 41
DEVON CATTLE - THEIR LEADING CHARACTERISTICS
Orange Judd Company, New York; 1905: pg. 163-169
- In all-round popularity the Devons occupy a place not higher than medium.
- Their want of size is against them in rich pastoral and arable sections, and
- Their qualities being only medium in the dairy, they are not often preferred to the distinctive dairy breeds for dairy uses, while
- It is probably true that less effort has been made to popularize them than in the case of other breeds introduced somewhat early.
The relatively small bodies of the Devons and their active habits and good grazing qualities adapt them to localities where the land is broken, and the soil possessed of but moderate fertility, and
Their fair milking qualities fit them for situations where the arable portions of the land are small in proportion to the pastoral, and where at the same time the system of husbandry is of the mixed order.
They are also better adapted to warm latitudes than the heavier-bodied breeds.
- Relative size.
In size they are considerably less than the Shorthorn and Hereford, less than the Polled Aberdeen, and something less than the Sussex and Galloway, but
The size is largely dependent upon the strain, the pasture, the breeding and the care.
- Milking qualities.
Devons are noted rather for the quality than the quantity of their milk.
Their symmetry of form, their proverbial docility, their well-shaped udders, their medium-sized teats, and their good butter making properties all tend to make them favorites in the dairy under the conditions of adaptation named above.
- Early maturing qualities.
In this respect they are fair, but probably not quite the equal of some of the heavier breeds that have been more forced in feeding, and yet
Their neat, pony-like frames will mature quickly with good keep.
- Grazing qualities.
The grazing qualities of Devons are of the first order, owing
To their muscularity, their activity, and to the inheritance of the grazing habit.
They readily obtain a good livelihood on lands where the heavy-bodied breeds would probably fail, and when food is plentiful they fatten quickly.
- Feeding qualities.
They feed quickly in the stall, and make good gains in proportion to the food consumed, but
They cannot stand forcing for so long a period as some of the other breeds.
They lay on flesh evenly and smoothly, hence they are not given to patchiness.
The quality of the meat is excellent, and in the markets of Great Britain it fetches prices nearly as high, and, in some instances, quite as high as those paid for Galloway and West Highland beef.
The meat is nicely veined and marbled, and is well flavored, juicy, and of prime quality.
A large proportion of roast meat is furnished, and the offal is small in proportion to the weight of the carcass.
- Value in crossing and grading.
Devons are highly prepotent, owing to their inherent vigor and to the long period during which they have been bred pure.
They should answer well for crossing upon common stocks where the aim is to improve their easy keeping qualities without impairing their butter producing powers.
Such crossing should be confined within the limits of adaptability suitable to the successful rearing of pure Devons.
The grades from Devons are well adapted to the home market, as they may be fattened at any age.
- Breeding qualities.
The natural conditions under which Devons are kept are favorable to the development and maintenance of good breeding qualities, hence we find those possessed by them in at least a fair degree.
Many of the females breed to an advanced age, as, like all the grazing breeds, they are noted for their longevity.
- Weak points.
Their lack of size, which renders them less suitable for exportation for beef.
Their lack of supreme dairy qualities, which circumscribes the field of their adaptability in dairying.
- Compared with Shorthorns.
Devons are not nearly equal to Shorthorns in general popularity and in size; they are also behind them in all-round adaptability, and are not quite equal to them in maturing qualities, in feeding qualities, and in the extent of the field within which they are useful for crossing.
In milking qualities they are not far different.
In grazing qualities, in the quality of the meat, and in breeding qualities they have a decided lead.