For five years we were thrilled to be among the few AMD breeders on the west coast. Unfortunately, we no longer have our beautiful herd. Hopefully, this will be a temporary situation. We can’t offer enough praise about these truly triple-purpose animals with their friendly, curious, and docile nature, thriftiness, phenomenal beef, sweet rich milk, and unparalleled beauty. We love talking about them so please feel free to contact us for information about them! Yes, these “Red Rubies” are true gems!
The American Milking Devon cattle enjoy a rich history in America. It is among the rarest of domestic cattle breeds, as well as one of the oldest and purest. At any given time, the American Milking Devon Cattle Association has approximately 700 living animals registered. The A.L.B.C. has its status listed as “Critical.” In fact, there are no known American Milking Devon cattle existing outside the United States, making them a unique American treasure.
In 1623, the ship “Charity” brought a consignment (one bull and three heifers) of red Milking Devon from north Devonshire, England, to Edward Winslow, the agent for Plimoth Colony. They were the first importation of purebred cattle from Britain. Now long extinct in their native England, American Milking Devon are the direct descendants of those early imports.
Red cattle from Devonshire had long been recognized in England for their intelligence, strength, willingness to work, and ability to prosper on coarse forage in a wide range of climates. None could surpass it for draft work, the milk was prized for cream and cheese making, and the carcass developed fine beef on poor forage- a true triple purpose breed.
A perfect description is found in the American Devon Herd Book, Vol. 2, 1868, Springfield, Massachusetts:
“The late experience of the breeders of Devon’s 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 later years, more cattle were imported from Devonshire. George Washington introduced the Milking Devon to his herd at Mount Vernon in the hopes of improving the quality and endurance of his cattle. These cattle had the ability to thrive on poor pasture, were hardy, and easily trained for field work. In 1799, his inventory included 171 head. As a premier multipurpose breed, American Milking Devon teams were the oxen of choice in crossing the Oregon Trail.
In 1952, the American Devon Cattle Club decided to develop the specialized beef Devon focused solely on beef performance. At the same time, a small group of breeders decided to form a separate association for dairy cattle and triple-purpose stock. That association did slowly dwindle, 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. The importance of cattle for draft animals all but disappeared, and the Milking Devon was replaced by high producing dairy breeds like the Holstein and Jersey, with whom it could not compete for milk quantity.
Neglected for over one hundred years and kept alive by a few devoted fanciers, the American Milking Devon is enjoying renewed interest for its vigor, gourmet beef qualities, milking ability, functionality, and value as a piece of living history. The American Milking Devon is a rare breed with contemporary function and beauty.
American Milking Devon Traits-at-a-Glance
• Easy keeping, rugged vitality
• Easy fattening, tender, well-marbled meat
• High quality milk perfect for butter and cheese making
• Longevity; favored for use as oxen
• Excellent fertility and maternal performance
• Intelligence and mild temperament
• Agility and endurance
• Diverse forage palatability
• Tolerance of both heat and cold
Historic Breed Standard Rhyme
Broad in her ribs and long in her rump;
Straight flat back with never a hump.
Fine in her bone and silky of skin;
She’s a grazier without and a butcher within.