American Milking Devon
American Milking Devons (AMDs) are a medium-sized, triple-purpose cattle breed, descended from cattle brought to North America by the New England colonists, and used for milk, meat, and as oxen. The cattle are a dark, rich red, ranging from ruby to auburn or chestnut. Both cows and bulls are horned.
The name American Milking Devon dates from 1978, when an agricultural industry focus on developing Devons as a beef animal prompted formation of the American Milking Devon Society, to promote and preserve the original tri-purpose Devon. The Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia both maintain Milking Devon stock.
AMD cattle have a long productive life. They can do well on rough forage, and produce enough milk both to raise a calf and supply a household’s dairy products. Their milk has a high butterfat content and makes good butter and cheese. AMD cattle fatten easily and their carcasses have a good meat to waste ratio. The meat is well-marbled and tender.
Our Experience with AMDs
We at Rustaret Farm find that AMDs thrive on the grain-free, drug-free regime we provide, and are exceptionally easy to manage. They are calm, smart, curious animals. For much of the grazing season, we move them to new pasture every day and they are quick to learn the routines, to anticipate what we want of them, and to respond to our directions. They calve easily and are excellent mothers. AMD calves are up and about quickly.
AMD cows and calves do, however, need winter shelter, given PEI’s weather. Our AMD herd has winter access to a lean-to shelter on the south side of a pole barn – and they make use of it when the weather is nasty.
Commercial and Registered
Belted Galloway Cattle, or “Belties,” are medium-sized beef cattle, identified by the white belt around their middle. Some breed associations maintain an “Appendix” to the registry for Belties with an incomplete or spotted belt. Like the plain Galloway, Belties’ base colour can be black, red, or dun. Black Belted Galloways are affectionately known as the Oreo cookie cattle.
Tradition holds that Belties originated from cross-breeding the Galloway of southwest Scotland, an ancient polled breed, and the Dutch Belted or Lakenvelder, a horned dairy breed. In 1950, H. Gordon Green began importing Belted Galloway cattle from Scotland to stock his farm at Ormstown, south of Montreal. Many of today’s North American herds include genetics from Green’s animals. Most Beltie cows can produce calves well into their teens.
The Belted Galloway can survive outdoors even in harsh winters, and gain weight on relatively poor forage. The UK Belted Galloway Society describes Belties as “perfectly suited to turning rough hill pasture into the finest quality meat.” Winter warmth is provided by a double coat of hair, rather than the layer of backfat most breeds require. The meat from grass-fed Belties is lean and flavourful; it is relatively low in saturated fats and cholesterol, and high in beneficial conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs).
Our Experience with Belties
We are impressed with the ruggedness of Belties. Our herd lives outdoors all year around. We provide them with access to woods for shelter in winter, but they do not always make use of it. When we pasture them on newly cleared, or partially cleared, woodland, they graze the available scattered grasses and browse, and are not timid about clearing trails and spaces to meet their needs. We think of them as our living bulldozers for converting woods to pasture. They are less placid and trusting than the AMDs and tend to herd up and retreat to a safe distance when they encounter strangers or possible predators. They have a strong herding instinct and will respond as a herd when they perceive a threat to any of the herds’ calves.
The Kerry, the traditional Irish family cow, has a glossy black coat and slender upturned white horns tipped with black. Thought to be descended from the Celtic Shorthorn brought to Ireland by Neolithic peoples, Kerry cattle are often referred to as the “poor person’s cow” because they can maintain themselves and produce considerable milk on sparse pasture. They are graceful and agile, can graze on soft land with minimal impact, and can winter outside in temperate climates. Both bulls and cows are generally sweet-tempered and easily managed.
Kerry cows have long productive lives, and calve regularly at 14 and 15 years old and beyond. They provide high quality milk and excellent beef. The globules of butterfat in Kerry milk are smaller than those found in other cows’ milk, thus making it easier to digest, and suitable for fresh milk, cheese and yogurt production.
Despite their historical importance as the cow that sustained generations of rural Irish households, their numbers have now declined to the point that they are in danger of extinction. Our small herd is one of the larger in North America.
Our Experience with Kerrys
Kerrys are good grazers and rugged. We are impressed with their ability to make good use of the rough pastures we are clearing and improving. In the winter, we provide them with access to a lean-to shelter on the south side of our pole barn – as we do for our AMDs as well. The Kerrys tend to make less use of the shelter than the AMDs.
Our Kerrys calve outdoors in the spring. For the most part, they have had small calves which they deliver easily. The cows are exceptionally protective mothers. The calves are vigorous and tend to be up and about immediately; they grow quickly.