1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Cattle Breeds - (a) Heavy Breeds

(Part 80)


Cattle Breeds - (a) Heavy Breeds

As our limits do not admit of even a brief notice of all those breeds of cattle for which Great Britain is so famous, we shall restrict our remarks to some of the most important of them. Without entering upon curious speculations as to the origin of these breeds , we proceed to notice them in order suggested by their relative importance in practical agriculture. The large lowland cattle thus claim our first attention , and amongst them we can not hesitate in assigning the first place to the

Short-horns.- It appears that from an early date the valley of the Tees possessed a breed of cattle which, in appearance and general qualities, were probably not unlike those quasi short-horns abound in various parts of the country at present day. By the time that the Messrs Colling came upon the field it is evident that there were many herds around them in which considerable improvements had already been effected, and that they commenced their memorable efforts n cattle-breeding with exceedingly hopeful material to work upon. But in their masterly hands these material seemed to at once to acquire an unwanted plasticity; for an incredibly short time their castle exhibited, in a degree that has not yet been excelled, that combination of rapid and large growth with aptness to fatten, of which their symmetry, good temper, mellow handling, and gay colours are such pleasing indices and accompaniments, and for which they have now acquired a world-wide celebrity. It was by judicious selection in the first instance, and then by coupling animals near affinity in the blood, that they so developed and stereotyped these qualities in their cattle as to entitle them at once to take rank as the progenitors of a new and well-marked breed. These Durham, Teeswater, or Short-horn cattle, as they were variously called, were soon eager sought after, after and spread over the whole country with amazing rapidity. For a time their merits were disputed by the eager advocates of other and older breeds, some which (such as the long-horns once the most numerous breeds in the kingdom) they have supplanted, while others such as the Harefords, Devons, Scotch polled cattle have each their zealous admirer, who still maintain their superiority to the younger race. But this controversy is meanwhile getting practically decided in favour of the short-horns which constantly encroach upon their rivals even in their headquarters, and seldom lose grounds which they once gain. Paradoxical as the statement appears, it is yet true that the very excellent of the short-horns has in many cases led to their discredit. For many persons desiring to possess these valuable cattle, and yet grudging the cost of pure-bred bulls, or being ignorant of the principles of breeding, have used worthless cross-bred males, and so have filled the country with an inferior race of cattle, bearing indeed a general resemblance in colour, and partaking in some measure of the good qualities of short-horns, but utterly wanting their peculiar excellences. By ignorant or prejudiced persons the genuine race ins nevertheless held answerable for the defects of the mongrels which usurp their name, and for the damaging comparison which are made betwixt them and choice specimens of their breeds. That the short-horn breed should spread as it does, in spite of its hindrance, is no small proof of its inherent excellence, and warrants the inference that whenever justice is done to it, it will take its place as the one appropriate bred of the fertile and sheltered parts of Great Britain. This desirable consummation has hitherto been retarded by the scarcity and high price of pure-bred bulls. We are quite aware that bull-breeding, as hitherto conducted, is a hazardous and unremunerative business, not withstanding the great prices sometimes obtained for first-class animals. We are of opinion, however, that it might be conducted in such a way as to be safer and more profitable to the breeder, and more beneficial to the country at large, than it has hitherto been . There is at present a large and growing demand for good yearling short-horn bulls, at price ranging from £25 to £50. With a better supply both as to quality and numbers, this demand would steadily increase, for we have long observed that there is no want of customers for really good animals at such prices as we have named. When higher prices than these are demanded, farmers who breed only for production of beef they are beyond their reach, and are fain to content themselves with lower-priced and inferior animals. We are glad, therefore, that it is a steadily increasing practice for breeders of short-horns to dispose of their young bulls by an annual auction sale to their own premises; or for a number for breeds to concur in offering their lots for sale on the same day at same central auction mart. The good effects of these increasing supply of well-bred bulls are becoming apparent in the improved quality of the cattle now brought to our markets.

A great stimulus has been given to the breeding of high class short-horns by the extraordinary prices which of late have been obtained for animals of certain favorite and fashionable strains. To illustrate this we give the following particulars sales of the year1872:-

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It is said that the operations of one enterprising Canadian breeder- Mr. Crochran of Hillhurst- have had a powerful effect in determining these extraordinary market rates for short-horns of the choicest type. One cargo, including forty short-horns bulls and heifers, and choice specimens of Costwold sheep and Berkinshire pigs, taken out by this gentlemen n 1870, is said to have cost him £15,000. American breeders of short-horn cattle have now established a herd-book of their own, and have been so successful in their efforts that already have made numerous sales to English breeders at long prices. While we write, accounts have come of the sale by auction, on 10th September 1873, of the herd of Mr. Campbell of New York Mills, near Utica, when 108 animals realized $380,000. Of these 10 were bought by British breeders, 6 of which, of the Duchess family, averaged $24,517, and one of them, "Eighth Duchess of Geneva," was bought for Mr. Pavin Davis of Gloucestershire at the unprecedented price of £8120. Choice specimen of these cattle are now also being sent in large numbers to our Australian colonies and to various parts of the continent of Europe. Indeed, it may be said f them, that, like our people, they are rapidly spreading over the world.

As already hinted, the Hareford is the breed which in England contests most closely with the short-horns for the palm of excellence. They are admirable grazier’s cattle, and when of mature age and fully fattened, present exceedingly level, compact, and massive carcasses of excellent beef. But the cows are poor milkers, and the oxen require to be at least two years old before being put up to fatten-defects which, in our view, are fatal to the claims which are put forward in their behalf. To the grazier who purchased them when their growth is somewhat matured they usually yield a good profit, and will generally excel short-horns of the same age. But the distinguishing characteristics of the latter is that, when properly treated, they get sufficiently fat and attain to remunerative weights at, or even under, two years old. If they are kept lean until they have reached that age, their peculiar excellence is lost. From the largeness of their frame they then cost more money, consume more foods, and yet do not fatten more rapidly than the bullocks of slower growing and more compactly formed breeds. It is thus the grazier frequently gives his verdict in favour of Harefords as compared with short-horns. Even under this mode of management short-horns will usually yield at least as a good return as their rivals to the breeders and grazier conjointly. But if fully fed from their birth so as to bring into play their peculiar property of growing and fattening simultaneously, we feel warranted in saying that they will yield a quicker and better return for the food consumed by them than cattle or any other breed. Unless, therefore, similar qualities are developed in the Herefords, we ,ay expect to see them more giving place to the short-horns. These remarks apply equally to another breed closely allied to the Herefords, viz., the

North Devons, so much admired for their pleasing colour, elegant form, sprightly gait, and gentle temper, qualities which fit them beyond all other cattle for the labour of the field, in which they are still partially employed in various parts of England. It could be proved that ox-power is really more economical than horse-power for any stated part of the work of the farm, then the Devons, which from such admirable drought oxen, would be deserving of general cultivation. It is found, however, that when agriculture reaches a certain stage of progress, ox- labour is inadequate to the more rapid and varied operations that are called for, and has to be superseded by that of horses.

Scotland possess several indigenous breeds of heavy cattle, which for the most part are black and hornless, such as those of Aberdeen, Angus, and Galloway. These are all valuable breeds, being characterized by good milking and grazing qualities, and by hardiness which peculiarly adapts them for bleak climate. Cattle of these breeds, when they have attained to three years old, fatten very rapidly, attain to great size and weight of carcase, and yield beef which is not surpassed in quality by that of any cattle in the kingdom.

The cows of these breeds, when coupled with a short horn bull, produce an admirable cross-breed, which combines largely the good qualities of both parents. The great saving of time and food which is effected by the earlier maturity of the cross-breed has induced a very extensive adoption of this practice in all the north-eastern countries of Scotland. Such as a system is necessarily inimical to the improvement of the pure native breeds; but when cows of the cross-breeds are continuously coupled with pure short-horn bulls, the progeny in a few generations become assimilated to the same parent, and are characterized by a peculiar vigour of constitution and excellent milking power of the cows. With such native breeds to work upon and this aptitude to blend thoroughly with the short-horn breed it is much more profitable to introduce the latter in this gradual way of continuous crossing than at once to substitute the one pure breed for the other. The cost of the former plan is much less, as there needs but the purchase from time to time of a good bull; and the risks is incomparably less, as the stock is acclimatized from the first, and there is no danger from a wrong selection. The greatest risk of miscarriage in this mode of changing the breed is from the temptation to which, from mistaken economy, the breeder is exposed of rearing a cross-bred bull himself, or purchasing a merely nominal short-horn bull from the others.

From this hurried review of our heavy breeds of cattle it will be seen that we regard the short-horn as incomparably the best of them all, and that we are and that we anticipate its ultimate recognition as the breed which most fully meets the requirements of all those parts of the country where grain and green crops are successfully cultivated.

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