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Offline DevonMan

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Rotokawa Devon Cattle info
« on: October 09, 2013, 07:46:52 AM »
This is a history and list of Characteristics of the Devon breed.

Devons first came to North America in 1623 on the ship Charity to the Plymouth colony. In the colony Devons were used for milk, meat, and as oxen.

Devons were very popular until the 1940-1950s. They were next to Shorthorns in numbers until the feed lots came in. In 1948 the feedlot paradigm was set in motion, and 15 years later cattle that would finish on grass had all but disappeared from the pastures in North America. The feedlots want tall, framey cattle that they could put in the feedlot on grain for 120 to 150 days.

In 1836, James Busby, who was a settler in Waitanga, in the Bay of Islands, brought 20 Devon heifers and one Devon bull to New Zealand from England. Devons continued to grow in popularity there until the 1920s, where they were used as oxen for hauling Kauri logs. Their resistance to disease and tolerance to all weather allowed their survival in small pockets.

In 1972, Mr D.J. Gilbert started a movement to re-establish the Devon throughout New Zealand. He acquired Devons from any herd he could find. He was active in starting the Devon Breed Society in New Zealand.

Master breeder Ken McDowall lived at Rotokawa Farm in Whanganui, New Zealand, managing a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle for the owner. In 1975, he bought 35 Devons and for 30 years, with careful breeding and constant improvement, he created an astounding subset of the Devon breed.

Gearld Fry, Ridge Sinn and Chuck Lacy of Bakewell Reproductive Center in Hardwick, Massachusetts, had found that Devons had better grazing genetics. Therefore they isolated some cows, but still could not find any really good bulls. In 2002 they sent Gearld Fry, an Arkansas beef genetics expert, on a mission to find some of the best Devon bulls in the world. Gearld went to New Zealand and met Master breeder Ken McDowall in Wanaganui. There he saw Kens herd of Rotokawa Devons, a subset of the Devon breed. Gearld Fry explained his mission. And I do believe I have found them! he told Ken McDowall. Gearld continued looking over all of New Zealand and Australia and did not find better cattle than the Rotokawa Devon Cattle.

Bakewell Reproductive center bought 12,000 semen straws from Ken. They started breeding their Devon cows and the next year they imported 13 in-calf Rotokawa Devon heifers from Ken McDowall. They flushed their embryos and implanted them into other cows to introduce the Rotokawa Devons to North American cattlemen quickly.

Five years later, in 2008, Ken McDowall was going to retire and the new owner wanted to farm commercially. Ken McDowall called Ridge Shinn and asked him if he would buy his herd. He did not hesitate. Yes, he said. Ridge Shinn and Chuck Lacy formed the Rotokawa Cattle Company to purchase the herd. But how to get 83 cows and 8 bulls to Massachusetts? No one had ever brought so many cattle into the USA. The best way was by plane with Ken McDowall. The cattle were quarantined in New Zealand for 60 days first. They were then put onto two 747s in special two-story crates. It was a 14-hour flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles. In California they were quarantined for 45 days and spent two months recuperating from the journey. They were then ready for the 5-day journey across the U.S. to Massachusetts.

Ridge Shinn now has 160 Rotokawa Devons on his farm. Ridge is a part-owner of a small meat-plant and has been keeping track of the meat yield of each animal. With half blood Rotokawa bulls he got 3-5 percent more meat in high-end cuts. It does not sound like much, but its $300 extra per animal.

Characteristics of Rotokawa Devon:

1) Early Maturity. Devons mature quickly. On a diet of grass, the steers average 1000-1200 lbs at 400 days (with no grain). The early maturity of Rotokawa Devons means producers can skip one whole winter of feeding. Most conventional cattle take 20-24 months or more to finish on grass.

2) Excellent proponent bulls. Because of close breeding, ruthless culling and the concentration of high quality genetics, these bulls have the consistency to stamp their progeny with their traits. The consistent quality in these calves from cross-bred cows and purebreds over other breeds is astounding. No matter how perfect a bull is, if he does not pass those genetics down to his calves, he is useless.

3) Reproductive efficiency. High breed-back rate. For 25 years, 100% of all Rotokawa Devon heifers have been bred back in two years. It is very rare for Rotokawa Devons do not get bred.

4) Calving Ease. The birth weight of the calves has not been recorded because there have not been any calving problems in 25 years! This means there is no EPD for calving ease. There is basically good calving ease.

5) Quality. Devons historically were known as the Butchers Breed for their cut-out (fine bone) and high quality of the meat, with intramuscular fat. A processing plant in Missoula, Montana showed that a conventional eye-fillet weighed 12lb (5.4 kg) where as in Rotokawa Devons of the same age and weight, the eye-fillets were 17lb (7.3kg). Neck wrinkles are a telltale sign of meat tenderness.

6) Docility. Devons are very docile, which is directly connected to the tenderness of the meat.

7) High milk fat. Milk fat is very important. Most young conventional heifers (14-16 months) are not mature enough to carry a calf, rear it and breed back in 12 months. They have barely started to fill their fat cells. They need 6-8 months more to completely fill them. It is not realistic to expect the heifer to get
enough nutrition to fill the fat cells, build fat cells in her calf and nourish a healthy fetus. Only 5% of all cattle right now have this ability. A cow needs to produce 200lb (90kg) of milk fat per lactation. The typical beef cow produces 4,000 lbs of milk per lactation. She needs to give 4.5 percent or more milk fat. Cows that have high milk fat and young heifers whose mothers gave them high milk fat are the females who can answer the early reproductive demands. How do you tell if a cow has high butter fat? The cows with bald udders, a butter tail, large yellow flakes on the last 7 inches of the tail and have yellow wax in her ear, have high milk fat. Rotokawa Devons have 4% to 7% milk fat.

Ken McDowall preferred to use an experienced eye than to use EPD (Expected Progeny Difference). EPD tends to lead to single-trait selection, which can lead to disaster. Ken McDowell feels that linear measurement has a lot to offer, particularly with breeders with little or no experience.

In the last 15 years Gearld Fry has been selecting according to linear measurement. Rotokawa Devons are a wholly functional animal. Gearld Fry considers EPD to discriminate against grass finished cattle. Gearld Fry also started the American Herbataurus society and wrote the book Cattle health and Reproduction. His website is http://bovineengineering.com/index.html .

Linear measurement is a tool that allows cattle breeders to identify genetic weaknesses and strengths that are inheritable. Cattle are to be properly proportioned. When cattle are selected with linear measurement, they will be high in reproduction, and meat production, and low in maintenance.

Linear measurement guidelines & correlations: A start.

For cows

Heart girth, the measurement behind the front legs, should be equal to or longer than the top line. The longer the heart girth the more efficient, adaptable and vigorous the animal will be. Every inch longer the heart girth is than the top line adds 37 lb of high quality red meat to the expensive cuts.

Wide shoulders are critical for increased feed efficiency and the development of the heart, lungs and glands. Shoulder width should be the same as the rump width. You want it to be within +-.5 inches of the shoulder width. Too wide and she will have reduced milk production. Too narrow and she will be a high maintenance cow.

Rump width should be 2.5 inches wider than the rumps length. The wider the rump, the higher level of reproductiveness is expected. The wide rumped cow will have sons with short necks, produce calves with more meat and produce calves that will finish on grass by 16-18 months.

Neck Length, from the vertebrae between the shoulder to just in front of the poll, should be 2/3 the total body length. If the neck is too long, she will be very dairy-like in appearance, and easy to stress. If the neck is too short, she will be wider in the shoulders and milk production suffers. Wide shoulders are a masculine trait.

To read more on linear measurement please visit http://www.bovineengineering.com/linear.html

For more info on Devons or for your Semen or Embryo needs please contact:

Greg Trimble, Rockin J Ranch
Emailgtrockinjranch@swbell.net
Phone 1-479-220-2514

Mark Vanderpol
Email devonontario@gmail.com
Phone 519-794-0142
www.devongeneticscanada.com
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 11:54:49 AM by DevonMan »

 

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