The cattle we raise at Grace Heritage Ranch are registered Devons.
They are of the few remaining North Devon cattle originally from Devonshire, England. It’s said that in 1623, 2 heifers and 1 bull were brought to the Plymouth Colony in New England by the pilgrims because they were the ideal multi-purpose breed. They are, in fact, a tri-purpose breed used for milk, meat, and also as a draft animal (oxen) because of their strength and intelligence. All of the registered American Milking Devons, as they are commonly called today, are direct descendants of the original North Devon foundation stock.
The American Milking Devon is a medium sized bovine, has a docile temperament and is an “easy keeper”, meaning they are adaptable to thrive even in harsh climates on poor forage. They are perfect for use on a small farm. The bulls weigh an average of 1,600 pounds and the cows weigh about 1,100 pounds.
Although they are called Milking Devon, the name is a bit of a misnomer because they are used for both milk and meat. Since they produce about 4 gallons of milk per day, they are not considered a high milk production breed. They are instead prized for the quality of the milk. Their 4% butterfat milk is comparable to that of a Jersey cow, and is used for making rich butter and cheese. It is, however, best known for its use in making Devonshire cream.
In the 1950s, the market for tri-purpose or even dual-purpose cattle disappeared because of the attempt to create high production dairy breeds vs. cattle for the beef market.
Even owners of the Devons were split between keeping the breed for multi- purpose use (maintaining the original breed characteristics) and breeding them for production of large amounts of beef. As a result, there are now both types. The ones still retaining the qualities of the original breed are the American Milking Devon.
The traditional Devon fell victim to market changes, consumer demand (more meat), revamped farming practices (introduction of the tractor) and politics within the breed association itself. By the 1970s there were fewer than 100 American Milking Devons remaining. Now there are about 1,200 registered purebreds in the world, with all of them here in the United States. They are still listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.