American Milking Devons

They say the first cattle brought to New England from Britain were the two Devon heifers and Devon bull that arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1623. 

Red cattle from north Devonshire had long been valued for their intelligence, hardiness and ability to prosper on poor forage, and for their speed, strength and willingness to work. Compact and medium-sized, Devons typically have few calving problems, and are productive milkers. They also yield fine beef.

Engraving of a five-year-old team raised in Litchfield, CT.       From Volume 43, page 541 of the American Agriculturalist, as excerpted in the October 2017 issue of the American Milking Devon Cattle Association newsletter.

Engraving of a five-year-old team raised in Litchfield, CT.     From Volume 43, page 541 of the American Agriculturalist, as excerpted in the October 2017 issue of the American Milking Devon Cattle Association newsletter.

Settlers imported additional Devon cattle, bred them, and quickly adopted the American Devon as the ideal multipurpose breed. Well-established in New England during the 1600s, the breed spread down the coast as far as Florida during the 1700s and 1800s. Devon oxen were among the draft animals of choice on the Oregon Trail.

As farming practices evolved, a growing interest in specializing with "modern" breeds--such as the red Durham, or Milking Shorthorn--caused Devons gradually to lose their preeminence. The colonial-style breed held on largely due to the persisting demand for Devons for use as working steers and oxen. According to breed historian Ray Clark, by 1972 the population of triple-purpose Devons had dwindled to 125 animals--and ninety of those belonged to a single Connecticut farmer. 

In 1952, when members of the American Devon Cattle Club decided to move towards a specialist beef market, accepting polled animals in its registry, a small group of breeders broke away to maintain triple-purpose stock. The American Milking Devon Cattle Association was formed in 1978 to conserve the original, colonial style of cattle.

The AMDCA maintains the American Milking Devon registry, which represents the gene pool of genuine triple-purpose cattle. The still-rare breed is undergoing a resurgence, thanks in large part to today's growing interest in smaller scale farming and sustainable woodlot management. These personable, hardy, productive cattle pull their weight, and more.

Denman Thompson's star performers

Denman Thompson's star performers

Devons for draft

Swanzey playwright Denman Thompson's 1886 script called for a sharp-looking team of oxen to pull a hay wagon past the stage during the first act of The Old Homestead. Devons were his choice. Thompson's thespian oxen toured the country with the wildly popular play. 

American Milking Devon steers and oxen are favored by teamsters for their ability to learn quickly, their eagerness to work, and their nimble size. They are handy in the woodlot, especially when snaking out trees on rough or hilly terrain. Unlike more massive teams, Devons keep up their pace well into maturity.

If you're looking for a show team, American Milking Devons are outstanding. Handsome and alert, these responsive boys earn blue ribbons. If you enjoy training, Devons will do their best to make you proud.

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Devons for dairy

The American Milking Devon's 4% butterfat content is comparable to that of Jerseys, and is the basis of Devonshire cream. The milk averages 3.75% protein, and produces large, fat calves. Devon cows readily adjust to demand, and average 217 days in lactation. Their moderate production of about four gallons per day is ideally suited to the family farm.

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Devons for beef

American Milking Devons fatten easily on grass, efficiently converting forage into growth and fat. The marbled meat is well-flavored, tender, and of prime quality. A 60% dress-out can be expected.