The Native strain of the Milking Shorthorn is one of several subdivisions recognized by the American Milking Shorthorn Society. By placing special emphasis on the fact that these “native” cattle were never crossbred, the society is allowing breeders the option to continue to maintain purebred genetics of the traditional-style Milking Shorthorn cattle.
The Milking Shorthorn is an excellent example of a dual-purpose, heritage breed. The cattle do very well in low-input production systems, producing an impressive quantity of milk and raising high-grade beef on grass. They are good mothers, with high conception rates and feed utilization.
Milking Shorthorn cattle are among the oldest recognized breeds in the world. Shorthorns originated in England and first came to the United States in the late 1700s. In an effort to increase production levels to compete with “industrial breeds” such as Holsteins, the dairy-style Milking Shorthorns underwent extensive crossbreeding programs, resulting in a substantial loss of pure genetics in the breed. Today, many of the bulls registered as Milking Shorthorn are actually one-half or more Holstein.
The American Milking Shorthorn Society now recognizes a subcategory of Milking Shorthorns, which have proven to be pure (not crossbred) as “natives.” This select portion of the breed is what SVF is targeting for collection.
The Milking Shorthorn is medium to large in size, with cows weighing 1,200 to 1,400 pounds and bulls about one ton. Milking Shorthorns are red, white, roan, or a mixture of the three, sometimes with extensive speckling. Most cattle are horned. These strains will perform well for grass-based dairying, as they are forage-efficient, healthy, long-lived and productive, with the additional value of producing high quality beef.