Brief Description of Beef Cattle Breeds
Aberdeen Angus. This breed came from northeastern Scotland. Aberdeen Angus cattle are hornless (hence sometimes referred to as Polled Angus). When they are mated to horned animals, their offspring are polled. The coat colour is black, sometimes tinged with brown at birth and in winter. The body conformation of cattle of this breed is regarded as being closest to the ideal. The animals are early maturing but are smaller than those of most other beef breeds. The Aberdeen Angus is now the most popular beef breed in New Zealand and is found in a wide range of environments.
Hereford. From its home in Herefordshire, cattle of the Hereford breed are now found in large numbers in all cattle-raising countries. There are two types of Herefords: horned and polled. The Polled Hereford was evolved in the United States of America and is gaining rapidly in numbers there and in other countries, including New Zealand. Herefords have white heads, necks, dewlaps, and underlines; the colour of the remainder of the coat ranges in intensity from a deep cherry-red to yellow-red. The cattle are docile and good rustlers and their beef propensities are not far behind those of the Aberdeen Angus. In New Zealand these two breeds are often crossed to produce offspring with the desirable qualities of both. The progeny of this cross are black with white faces and are polled.
Shorthorn. County Durham is regarded as the cradle of the Shorthorn breed where the brothers Charles and Robert Colling (1749–1836) were its first improvers, but others (Thomas Bates, 1775–1849, the Booth family in Yorkshire, and Amos Cruickshank, 1808–95, in Aberdeen) also played an important part in developing the breed. Originally Durham cattle were dual-purpose animals but the Booth family and Amos Cruickshank developed a beef type, and later the breed was divided into the Milking Shorthorn and the Beef or Scotch Shorthorn. The Beef Shorthorn, like the Hereford, now has a polled branch, known as the Polled Shorthorn, which was evolved in North America and is gaining in popularity in many countries.
The Beef Shorthorn can be of three main coat colours; viz., red-roan, white, or cherry-red. The body conformation has been altered greatly within recent times so that modern animals of this breed are more compact and have an outline more nearly like that of the Aberdeen Angus. The Shorthorn is frequently crossed with either the Hereford or the Aberdeen Angus, and some cattlemen prefer to mate white Shorthorn bulls to Aberdeen Angus cows to give offspring which are blue-roan in colour as these are favoured by some fatteners.
Galloway. The origin of this old breed is obscure but Scotland has been its home for at least two centuries. There are now two breeds of Galloways which are registered separately, viz., Belted Galloways and Galloways. The former cattle are polled, have black coats and a very characteristic wide white belt round the barrel or middle of the body. This belt distinguishes them from other British breeds. Galloways of the non-belted breed are either black or dun coloured. Belted Galloway and Galloway cattle are polled.
Galloway cattle were first brought to New Zealand in 1948. They are regarded as possessing greater hardiness than other British breeds and have therefore been used where the climate is rigorous and the terrain is steep. Cattle of this breed are small bodied and relatively slow maturing, but the carcasses of the non-belted Galloway are of high quality. The winter coat is long and this affords them protection against storms. In New Zealand, Galloways are used exclusively for crossing with other beef breeds.
Devon. This breed, developed in Devonshire, has been brought to New Zealand in small numbers and is restricted mainly to North Auckland, though recent importations have gone to Canterbury. Devon cattle are horned, large in size, and their coat colour varies from light to dark red. The breed is quiet in temperament but its slow maturity and heavy carcass make it unsuited to present-day needs.
Red Poll. This is a dual-purpose breed as distinct from the single-purpose beef breeds discussed above. The breed was developed in England and was officially recognised by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1862. The coat colour is uniformly blood-red and the animals are relatively small and they are polled. In New Zealand, Red Poll cattle are found only on the lowlands. Their milk production is below the average of that of dairy cows in New Zealand and their body conformation is below an acceptable standard for beef.
Each breed has its own society which compiles an annual herd book containing mainly pedigree details of all registered cattle.
Stud beef cattle are still being imported from Great Britain, Australia, United States of America, and Canada. On occasions, however, New Zealand exports registered beef cattle, mainly Jersey, to many countries throughout the world.