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 course 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.
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for draft animals has all but disappeared and the Devon has been replaced
by high producing dairy breeds like the Holstein and Jersey, with whom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
reformed 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.
The Milking Devon is a medium sized triple-purpose
breed adapted to survive on a low-quality, high forage diet under severe
climatic conditions. They are healthy, long lived, and thrive on good
care and management.
The breed is red in color, varying in shade from
deep rich red to light red or chestnut color. They may show white on
the tail switch, udder or scrotum. They have medium sized curving horns
that are light colored with dark tips.
The selection for meat or milk in this breed
has never been the top priority.
The Devon cow is especially elegant with her
compact rounded form, and when treated with kindness, possesses a docile
temperament. They have very few calving difficulties and adequate milk
production to raise a calf and for use on the small farm.
The Devon bull is noted for his ease of handling
and even temperament, when treated kindly.
Devons were highly valued as oxen in the establishment
of the American Colonies, due to their great strength, intelligence,
fast pace and endurance.
Today, Devons are still sought out for use as
oxen. Those qualities so highly prized by the colonists can still be
found in today's Devons.
In 1858, William Youatt stated that "the Devon
as an aboriginal breed of cattle is a very valuable one, and they seem
to have arrived at the highest point of perfection."
Today's breeders strive to maintain these very
same qualities in the modern Milking Devon.
MILKING DEVONS USA
American Milking Devon Association. 135 Old
Bay Road, New Durham, NH 03855. Phone: 603-859-6611 Email:
George Washington Birthplace National Monument,
RR 1 Box 717, Washington Birthplace, VA 22443
Jeffery W. Semler, Cooperative Extension Service,
University of Maryland, taken at Colonial Williamsburg
Stephanie Diamant, taken at Plimoth Plantation,
Plymouth, MA, Rare Breeds Program