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Breed Features

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Red Devon Cattle Excel in Many Traits


Red Devons have small vigorous calves, providing trouble free calving.  Average birth weight of calves is 36 to 38kg..  For this reason Red Devon bulls are a popular choice for farmers calving heifers, of all breeds, both beef and dairy.  This means more live calves on the ground and fewer vet bills. 


The 25 heifers pictured at top of page produced 27 live calves.  Red Devons rank as one of the most fertile of all cattle breeds.  Calving percentages of 96% and better can be expected on good nutrition.  Heifers routinely show estrus by 300 days, will calve before two year old and get back in calf in 45 days.  A good bull will service 65-70 cows in a season and look like he never went out.  Because of the constitution and the longevity of the breed, bulls have been known to be still working at the age of fourteen.  This means more live calves, less empties, carryovers or culls, and lower bull replacement costs. 


All breeders and stock truck drivers will testify to the docile temperament of the Red Devon breed.  This is why lifestyle, small block and semi-retired farmers are especially attracted to the breed.  Docility and intelligence, as well as muscling ability were basic requirements when they were used as draft animals.  These traits are equally important in their role of producers of quality beef.  The temperament definitely has a favorable effect on the ph of the animal at slaughter.  Temperament is a highly heritable trait, so when a Red Devon is crossed with another breed, the resultant progeny will show a vast improvement in temperament.  This means easy handling and less stress.  Both bulls and cows are safe to work with. Less maintenance costs on yards, farm gates, broken fences etc. What price do you put on safety?


Red Devons are excellent foragers and have been proven in trials to be extremely efficient converters of grass to beef.  They are an ideal breed for the New Zealand all-pasture feed system.  They are well suited to grazing New Zealand's hill country, and have the ability to turn lower quality feed into quality meat and milk.  By maintaining feed quality on steep country, they play a major role in profitability on these farms.  Their low maintenance requirements make them easy cattle to over-winter, with minimal hay being supplemented at strategic times, such as through calving, to enable the feeding of magnesium oxide to guard against hypomagnesaemia. Because of their nature and medium size, pugging of the pasture is kept to a minimum during winter months.  Red Devons are the ideal bred for organic farming properties, and in the U.K. they are recognised as "the ideal conservation grazier", because of their gentle browsing nature.


Red Devons are a hardy breed with the thickest hides of any cattle in the world. Because of this they have better resistance to external parasites, and are well able to withstand extreme weather changes and extremes of temperature.  Their robust constitution enables them to flourish in many different environments.  They are just as at home in the cold, wet conditions of Exmoor, in the heat of Brazil; or the dry and arid conditions of inland Queensland.  Their red coat colour helps to protect them against the sun, and red eye pigment helps to prevent cancer eye, an increasing problem for many breeds.  They are also well known as one of the Bos taurus breeds with the greatest tolerance to bloat.  This means healthier, tougher, more profitable cattle.


Red Devon cows have excellent mothering ability, compact problem free udders and calves have one of the highest survival rates to weaning.  They are renowned for high milk production resulting in heavy calves at weaning.  Bull calves average 1.2 kilograms per day from birth to weaning and heifers 1 kilogram.  Red Devon cows are capable of weaning calves at half their own body weight and still being in fat condition, can be wintered below maintenance feed levels until a few weeks before calving again.  In other words using the body condition gained in times of plenty to survive the winter period.  An easy care system.


Red Devons are an early maturing breed.  They combine rapid weight gain as well as adequate muscle and carcass characteristics, with the ability to fatten at an early age.  They really are "One Winter Cattle" and will normally yield around 60%+.  When run in harsher conditions the cattle have the versatility to grow out into heavy, high yielding bullocks which are well known overseas for producing the roast beef of "Olde England"


Red Devon beef is well recognised and of the finest eating quality, with whiteness of fat and good marbling which enhances the taste.  This is "gourmet beef". Did you know?.  The first corned beef, (made in America) was produced from a Devon cattle beast. 


A 17 month polled heifer came first on the hook in a large entry for local trade heifer.  It yielded out at 75.70% total, saleable product ahead of 52 other entries with a 60 out of 60 for fat over rib eye area.

350kg Live Weight 193kg Dead Weight

"Devons are top carcass cattle noted for the whiteness of their fat"

1st in Class 1 under 320 kg and up to 36 months of age.  Devon Steer - aged 21 months Live Weight 510kg Dead Weight 297 kg

The Devon Steer won in a class of 32, representing 10 breeds of cattle.

Eileen Porter with her prizewinning Devon steer at the presentation of Awards


The cow pictured to the right Matahaia Tammy 3rd at 20 years, after successfully rearing 18 calves.  Because Red Devons have such a robust constitution, are structurally sound with correct udders and free from diseases such as cancer eye, this means they can be retained in the herd for more years than most other breeds.  Cows are quite capable of producing and rearing ten or more calves in a lifetime.  Cows in the herd are normally culled for age about fourteen years, with some of the top animals kept on longer.  This makes the breed an economical one, with a low replacement rate.


The fortunes of the Devon breed are linked to the fact that they have never been the "flavour of the month" and have therefore never had the pressure to conform to the factory type production system.  They have not been influenced by other breeds, or the introduction of American genetics as many other breeds were in past years.  This means that they have not lost their genetic ability to perform wherever they have had to.  It is these traits now that are being so sought after.  No breed has a purer genetic base than the Devon and breeders will continue to insure the genetic integrity and stability of the breed.  The hybrid vigour noticeable in your calves is a direct result, of the purity of the Red Devon bulls used over your herd. 

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