Stark Hollow Farm began raising registered American Milking Devon Cattle with the purchase of "Gretel" as a proven bred cow from The Devon's Gate Farm in Hardwick, Vermont in 2015. Gretel gave birth in August to a heifer calf who we've named "Hanna" and intend to breed in 2017. The Milking Devon will add dairy, grass fed beef and possible draft power to our homestead operation.
Once a popular multi-purpose breed, today the Milking Devon is listed as "critical" with the Livestock Conservancy and mostly raised by small heritage breed farmers like us with a passion of preserving this gorgeous historically and contemporarily valuable animal.
The Milking Devon is one of few triple purpose breeds of cattle left in the United States. This breed has always met the needs of the small farm, providing its owners with beef, milk, and draft power. While more common breeds of cattle have endured many changes and fads, the Milking Devon has retained most of its original qualities throughout history. Its value lies not only in its history, but in the qualities retained that other breeds have long since lost. The American Minor Breeds Conservancy has done a great deal to help the Milking Devon in recent times, but the breed's importance was identified long ago. (The term "Devon" is often used synonymously with Milking Devon in New England, and with the North Devon in England).
In 1858, William Youatt stated, "The Devon as an aboriginal breed is a very valuable one, that has seemed to have arrived at the highest point of perfection." He went on to point out, "From the earliest records the breed has remained the same, and had been altered in no essential point in the last 30 years."
Contemporary Milking Devon breeders are still not anxious to cross this animal to improve specific characteristics or make it more competitive with modern breeds. The breeders of the Beef Devon did follow this trend, and according to New England ox teamsters, "bred the brains and brawn out of the animals in the process." Even in its native North Devon, England, the original triple purpose Milking Devon can no longer be found.
In comparing many of the early descriptions of the Devon, it is obvious that the same beast exists today in color, form, size, productivity, and character in the Milking Devon. While total number may be critically low, the breed nonetheless continues to survive in its original form.
~ Excerpt from History of American Milking Devon Cattle: The Milking Devon - Past and Present by Drew and Janet Conroy
Watch this short video about the American Milking Devon in Vermont
Video credit: Across the Fence produced by the University of Vermont Extension.