According to the Devon Cattle Breeder’s Society in England, Devon’s are among the earliest breeds of domesticated cattle. The hearty Devon, noted for its exceptional performance in grazing uncultivated grasslands year around in its native England, was an ideal choice for facing life on a new continent where quality forage was scarce, and conditions harsh.
In 1623, a member of the Plymouth Colony received two heifers and a bull from north Devonshire, England, marking the first importation of British cattle to this country. Although the Spanish had already introduced cattle to the south, these were the first to be introduced in New England.
Devon’s have played an enormous role in the settlement of North America. Highly valued for the quality of their milk and meat, they were probably most esteemed for their intelligence, fast pace, and strength as draught animals. It was the Devon that cleared the New England forests and transformed rocky open land to the fields with stonewalls we see today—clearing the way for the small farms and roadways that followed.
Although trends in cattle production shifted towards the production-based specialties of more single-purpose breeds, the popularity of the Devon has continued through the centuries, defying trends and changes in response to market demand. The cycle has come full circle, and once again, the Devon is superbly suited to the 21st century needs of agriculture.
The Devon in its original triple-purpose form is now extinct in its native Devonshire, England. From these cattle, farmers, over the centuries, have selected two distinct breeds: the Beef Devon, and the American Milking Devon.
The American Milking Devon is a direct descendant from the foundation stock brought to New England. This distinguished group of cattle is favored for its tri-fold assets—milk, meat, and draught. Found only in the United States, the Milking Devon numbers less than 500, and has been placed on the critically endangered list of rare breeds by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Handled with kindness, the Devon is a docile breed, medium in size, and red in color, ranging from a deep rich red to a light chestnut, with medium-sized curving light-colored horns with dark tips.
Rising fuel prices, economies of scale, government subsidies, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and numerous other factors have driven many livestock producers towards an industrial model of production. Such mass production results in bland, texture less beef full of antibiotics and additives. Not only are nutrition and flavor compromised, but also the consumer is distanced from developing an ecological and spiritual relationship with the food that they eat.
Fortunately for the Devon, today’s health-conscious consumer is demanding a higher quality product—one that is produced in harmony with the ecological and cultural communities in which it is raised. As a result, the American Milking Devon returns to the forefront as a premier breed of cattle suitable for producing high quality milk and meat from sustainable production systems.
The demand for American Milking Devon’s is unprecedented. With less than 500 registered animals in the United States, it is no wonder that they are so highly sought after.
Stony Pond Farm is home to just over 30 Milking Devon’s with more calves arriving each summer.