History of American Milking Devon Cattle
In 1623, two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England, were received by a member of the Plimoth Colony. They were the first importation of cattle from Britain, although the Spanish had introduced cattle in the south.
Their immediate value was as draft animals. Cattle from Devonshire had long been recognized in England for their speed, intelligence, strength, willingness to work, and ability to prosper on coarse forage, in a wide range of climates.
In later years, other cattle were imported and contributed to the American Devon, which developed as the ideal multipurpose breed. None could surpass it for draft work; the milk was good for cream and cheese making; and the carcass developed fine beef on poor forage.
The 1868 American Devon Herd Book, Vol. 2, was published in Springfield, Massachusetts. This herd book contained the perfect description of Devon Cattle.
"The late experience of the breeders of Devons only confirms their former opinion of the excellent qualities of the breed, for the three grand objects for which neat stock are kept, namely, milk, work, or beef, and their adaptation to many sections of our country, in preference to any other breed; also that they will produce as much milk, work, or beef, from the food consumed, or on a given quantity of land, as any other breed...The only objection ever presented to the breed, is "they are small;" but we can keep more of them, and that on shorter pastures and coarser food."
In more recent times, the importance of cattle for draft animals has all but disappeared and the Devon has been replaced by high producing dairy breeds like the Holstein and Jersey, with whom it could not compete for quantity.
In 1952, the American Devon Cattle Club decided that the breed had to move into a specialist beef market in order to survive.
At that time, a small group of breeders decided to form a separate association for dairy cattle and maintain triple-purpose stock. That association slowly dwindled, but thanks to their efforts, many of their animals can be traced into the new registry which was re-formed in 1978. This registry represents a gene pool of genuine triple-purpose cattle able to survive and be productive under minimal management conditions in a harsh environment.
Additional resources on the history of American Milking Devon Cattle:
New England Cattle: Red Natives of Devonshire Extraction
The Milking Devon - Past and Present
Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World
The Devon Cattle Book
History of the Devon breed of cattle
History of Devon Cattle in England
Cattle: Breeds, Management, and Diseases
Farm Livestock of Great Britain
British Breeds of Live Stock
History of the Rise and Progress of the Devon Breed of Cattle
Devon Cattle: Their History in America
Devon Cattle by L. P. Sisson , in The Breeds of Live-stock by Carl Warren Gay. 1920 Google Books
Devons, in The American Farmer edited by Charles L Flint. 1883
Sketches of Devon Breeders
The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds
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