Milking Shorthorns

One of the oldest recognized breeds in the world, Shorthorn cattle originated in Northeastern England in the Valley of the Tees River. Much of the early improvement work took place in the counties of Northumberland, Durham and York.

The first importation of Shorthorns to the United States was in 1783, when 'Milk Breed' Shorthorns came to Virginia. These early importations, often referred to as 'Durhams', became favorites of the pioneer, furnishing meat, milk and power.

Shorthorns, the most numerous in the British Isles, America and Australia, are either red, red and white, white or roan, the last named color being a very close mixture of red and white, and found in no other breed of cattle.

Origin, History and Development

Into the North Sea, on the east coast of England just north of the bulge toward Europe, a river, the Tees, empties. It was along this river that the Shorthorn breed was developed. The earliest knowledge of the forerunners to the breed is word of mouth, that for two hundred years before 1780, there were short horned cattle on the Yorkshire estates of the Dukes and Earls of Northumberland. Shorthorn stock had been in the herds of Smithsons of Stanwick since the middle 1600's.

Several men helped to bring the breed to its present high standard of perfection by selecting animals that were best suited to meet the demands of practical farmers.

In Shorthorn history, the names of Bates, Booth and Cruickshank are noted. Bates and Booth were Englishmen who developed what are usually referred to as 'English Shorthorns.' Cruickshank was a Scotchman who developed the 'Scotch Shorthorns.' The Bates type of Shorthorns were noted for their style and good milking qualities. Cruickshank's cattle were thicker, blockier, and meatier.

Most of the early importations of Shorthorns to America came from English herds and were of the Bates and Booth types; those that came directly from the Bates herd or descendants of that herd had very good milking qualities.

As explained, the Milking Shorthorn is not a separate and distinct breed, but rather a segment of the Shorthorn breed. The pedigrees of both the Milking Shorthorn and the scotch Shorthorn trace to the same foundation animals if carried to breed origin.

Shorthorns Enter USA in 1783

An unknown number of both types, the milk breed and the beef breed, were brought from England by a Mr. Gough of Maryland and his partner, a Mr. Miller of Virginia. Importations continued during the early 1800's and the breed moved into New York, Kentucky, Ohio and deeper into the Midwest. The first herd west of the Mississippi River is reported to have been established by N. Cooper on his Ravenswood Farm in Missouri in 1839. Today, Milking Shorthorns are found in almost every area of the United States.

It should be gratifying to anyone interested in Milking Shorthorns to learn how much the breed contributed to the livelihood of our nation. Its hardiness, wide range of adaptation and efficiency of production provided milk, meat and transportation for our pioneers. The breed's many attributes continue to provide a livelihood for the breeders of today.

A Versatile Breed

The Milking Shorthorn breed is the most versatile of all breeds and this is one of its greatest attributes. These docile cows efficiently produce large volumes of nutritious milk each lactation and are large enough to have a high salvage value when their long productive lives finally come to an end. In addition, their healthy calves born each year on regular calving intervals are spunky at birth, grow rapidly, and those not kept for breeding stock and herd replacement make efficient gains and hang very desirable grading carcasses.

Other attributes of the breed include ease of calving, ease of management and economy of production, especially on home produced roughages and grass.

One of the first official demonstrations of the production ability of Milking Shorthorns was made at the World's Exposition in Chicago in 1893 where two of the leading cows of the test were Kitty Clay 3rd and Kitty Clay 4th, the latter standing third in net profit over all breeds. These sister cows became the foundation for the Clay cow family of Milking Shorthorns, developed at Glenside Farm, Granville Center, Pennsylvania.

Milking Shorthorns in the USA

Breeders began recording their Shorthorn cattle in 1846 with the first volume of the American Herdbook. In 1882, the American Shorthorn Breeders' Association was formed to register and promote both Milking and Scotch (beef) Shorthorns. In 1912, a group of Milking Shorthorn breeders organized the Milking Shorthorn Club to work within the framework of ASBA. Its membership was interested in advertising the good milk qualities of the breed by keeping official milk records and encouraging breed improvements.

The American Milking Shorthorn Society (AMSS) incorporated in 1948 and took over the registration and promotion of Milking Shorthorns. In April 1950, the Milking Shorthorn office moved from Chicago to Springfield, Missouri. Milking Shorthorns were declared a dairy breed in 1969 and in 1972 became members of the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. The Society national office moved to its present home, Beloit, Wisconsin in 1986.

Milking Shorthorn breeders in the USA have many opportunities for improving the genetics of their animals by participating in the breed's official production testing, type trait appraisal, gain performance, national shows and breed promotion programs.

Breeders can use semen from the breed's highest proven bulls. Semen of high genetic value is also available from carefully selected young sires approved by the Young Sire Committee. Also, two grade-up programs make it possible for anyone to bring outstanding neglected purebreds back into the Official Herd Book and to introduce the best of other internationally recognized high producing breeds into a program with rigid requirements.

It is a fact that no breed has made greater improvement during the past 15 years and even greater increases are expected in the future. Milking Shorthorns have become more dairy and more angular and improved udder quality. Anyone having the opportunity to observe recent national Milking Shorthorn shows can not help but be impressed by the number of superior individuals presented which were bred by breeders from coast to coast.

References:

American Milking Shorthorn Society, P.O. Box 449, Beloit, Wisconsin 53512-0449. Phone: (608) 365-3332

Photographs:

Hoards Dairyman, Fort Atkinson, WI


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Updated August 3, 1999