Voices From The Past
There is no question that there have been many changes in the cattle industry in the last number of years. Despite those changes, some of the concerns and problems we face today are quite similar to those that the industry faced years ago.
On this page, we intend to reprint helpful articles from years past. Even though they were written many years ago, we feel that the information contained in them is timeless. Please feel free to contact us for a discussion on these topics at any time.
Farm Live Stock of Great Britain, 1907
By Robert Wallace, Loudon M. Douglas, Primrose McConnell, W. B. Wale
The Aberdeen - Angus Breed, from Aberdeenshire, Forfarshire, and the district largely embraced within the adjoining counties, is most probably the result of the amalgamation of a number of very different, local, polled and also horned breeds, associated with careful selection and in-and-in breeding, together with, it is asserted, the infusion, within comparatively recent times, of a greater or less degree of alien blood. In common with the only other domesticated breeds of the Scottish mainland - the Galloway, the West Highland, and the Ayrshire - there is a strong probability, if there is not absolute proof, that it originally descended from the native wild cattle of the country. The difference of climate and surroundings, together with the influence of artificial selection by man, and probably the importation of fresh blood from abroad, is sufficient to account for the diverse appearances in all those allied varieties.
It is recorded that less than one hundred years ago crossing was carried on with Ayrshire, Guernsey, Fife, Shorthorn, and Galloway cattle. How much of this blood has been maintained in the best animals of the present day is a matter for conjecture. It is true that the well-known attempt by Lord Panmure to introduce a Galloway cross was not attended with success; but, on the other hand, there is good reason to believe that the very extensive and successful use of Shorthorn bulls in breeding grazing cattle for the Southern markets, led to the incorporation of Shorthorn qualities into the breed during the early years of its improvement. At times very distinct Shorthorn characters appear by atavism in polled cattle of good blood and long pedigrees, and disappear in the next generation.
The author remembers having seen a black-and-white cow of this kind some years ago, which had well-developed horns, and quarters unmistakably like those of a Shorthorn. Her immediate ancestors as well as her descendants were animals of the pure type and of superior quality.
Annual Report by Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, 1884
A paper by John R Harvey, of Turlington, Nebraska, read before the Stock Breeders’ Association,
at their annual meeting at Lincoln, Nebraska, February 14, 1884.
The race of cattle from which the Polled Aberdeen-Angus have descended will probably never be satisfactorily determined, as we have no record of any very ancient date, and the best authorities furnish only suggestions. But it seems most probable that three of the beef breeds of Scotch cattle, the Polled Aberdeen-Angus, the Galloways, and the West Highlanders, are all descended from one stock: that of the wild aboriginal cattle of ancient Caledonia. The difference of the breeds at the present time being due to the variations of climate, culture, and other conditions to which they were severally subjected.
The development of these distinct characteristics can be better understood when we consider the remarkable differences in climate and soil of the several localities in Scotland. McDonald and Sinclair, in their excellent book on polled cattle, say: “The marked distinction which these breeds have come to display, with the exception of that striking peculiarity, the want of horns, are exactly such as might be calculated to arise from the variations in their respective conditions of life, more particularly from divergences in the mode of treatment to which their owners have subjected them for many generations, nay, even for centuries.”
The truth of this statement will receive verification when, in dealing with the characteristics of the Polled Aberdeen-Angus breed, we come to compare the sleeky polls that have been reared on the highly-cultivated arable farms of the cold, dry north-east, with the more shaggy, hornless cattle which have been produced on the soft, natural pastures of Galloway, where the rainfall is much greater and the cold less intense. Then a glance at the distinctions between the small, “skranky,” native horned cattle of the bleak, stormy, northern heights, and the handsome, massive Highlanders that occupy the lower, softer, greener, and better sheltered regions of the west, supplies equally forcible testimony of a similar kind. It is most probable that the aboriginal cattle had horns, and the peculiar hornless characteristic of the Aberdeen-Angus breed we can only account for as due, in the first place, to individual peculiarities, or, as Dr. Darwin suggests, “spontaneous variations,” which had a tendency to repeat themselves, natural conditions being favorable, and afterward being firmly established by culture. This breed of cattle are of a gentle disposition. “Whether being without the implements of war visual to cattle has had any effect upon their disposition or not, I am unable to state, but they certainly are very quiet, and very pleasant to handle.
The Polled Aberdeen-Angus cattle derive their name from the shire of Aberdeen and the old shire of Angus, now mainly included in the county of Forfar, and are probably indigenous to this locality. As far back as we can trace them, they have been bred in these two counties, and are found there in greater numbers than in any other counties in Scotland. These counties have been noted for years as fine beef-producing localities, and it is especially with this breed of cattle that they have made their reputation.
In describing the influence of this climate upon the Shorthorns, Mr. Wm. Warfield says: “Away up in Aberdeenshire, exposed to all the rigor of that extreme north, this herd (Amos Cruikshank’s) has been for many years a grand example of what Shorthorns may become in Scotland. I have never seen finer fleshed, larger framed, richer coated beasts anywhere than this herd. Scotland’s eminence as a beef-producing country is too well known to need any particular comment, and ‘prime Scots,’ as a top quotation in English markets is an old story. There is something singularly taking in the whole class of Scotch cattle. What blocky, low down beasts they are! You will be told anywhere in England, by feeders, that Scotch bred and fed cattle will go to the block in better form than any south of the border.” Mr. Warfield also calls attention to “the great capacity of all classes of animals bred in cold climate, to make peculiarly rapid and vigorous growth during the summer, a capacity shared by all nature, and the tendency to lay up fat, as if stored for the long winter drain on the system. The effect of the bracing, invigorating air on the whole constitution, deepening the chest, filling out the form in every way needed to battle the winter's cold. Springing from these, we find an active digestion, rapid assimilation and fine flesh-producing qualities.” These are the conditions of climate in which the Polled Aberdeen Angus have been reared from time immemorial, and, as a result, we have this well-defined type of cattle, having great substance, great aptitude to fatten, and of early maturity.
The Polled Aberdeen-Angus cattle are, as a rule, uniformly black, with an outer and undercoating of fine sleek hair, very soft and warm. Sometimes there is a brownish streak along the spine, and this is frequently seen on well-bred cows of good individuality. White markings on the belly and about the udder are also frequently seen, and are not considered a defect so long as the white does not come up on the sides. In fact, white on the udder is apt to indicate good milking qualities. A few gray hairs in the switch are not unusual or objectionable. One of the most important features of the Polled Aberdeen-Angus breed for the consideration of the western farmer is their record of adaptability to cross with Shorthorns, or grade Shorthorns. The result of this cross has at all times proved most satisfactory. McDonald and St. Clair say: “Indeed the very best beef-producing animal that has yet been reared is a cross between a Shorthorn bull and a polled cow.” Throughout the north-east of Scotland this system of crossing is pursued very extensively. Nearly nine-tenths of the Aberdeenshire beeves so highly prized in London markets are crosses between these two breeds. The system is to mate the polled cow with the Shorthorn bull, but because of the scarcity of polled cows the reverse system is practiced with excellent results. Mr. Cruikshank, of Syttyton, Aberdeenshire, says he has crossed a Polled Aberdeen cow and her produce with Shorthorn bulls for five generations, and that neither scurs or horns have made their appearance, and in writing to a friend of mine in Chicago, lately, in answer to a letter asking him for statistics in regard to these cross-bred animals, he says: “I have no statistics at hand, but we all know that when we want the very best beef to be obtained we cross the Shorthorn and! Polled Aberdeen-Angus.”
In 1810, when the Collings made their famous sale, and the bull Comet was sold for 1,000 guineas (over $5,000), a fresh impetus was given to the breeding of beef cattle, and when in 1822-3 at the Highland agricultural society show,, in Edinburgh, some Shorthorns of extraordinary merit, bred by Mr. Robertson, of LadyKirk, were exhibited, the greatest enthusiasm was created, and Shorthorns were soon after introduced into Aberdeenshire by Mr. Cruikshank and others.
Young Shorthorn bulls were sold by them to breeders of Aberdeen-Angus cattle, and mated with the polled cows, producing better butcher cattle than had yet been known "Crossing in this fashion," says the historian, “became almost a craze, handsome profits being realized by it, and for a time it seemed as if the farmers had become oblivious to the danger of running out their reserve of pure bred cows. It was not only in Aberdeenshire that the craze for this crossing displayed itselfMany farmers in Angus also were induced, much to their chagrin afterwards, to allow their excellent herds of pure bred polled cattle to be degenerated into stocks of ever varying crosses.” There were a few far-seeing men in both districts, however, who saw this danger, and took a stand firmly to deliver the Polled Aberdeen-Angus stock. Mr. Hugh Watson and Mr. McCombie .ire looked upon as the foremost in this rank, and it may be fairly said that what Collings, Booth, and Bates were to the red, white, and roan, Watson, and McCombie were to the glossy blacks.