South Devon History | Maternal Traits | Disposition | F-1 Cross
Feed Efficiency | Rate of Gain | Carcass Quality | South Devons Make The Grade | Tenderness Is South Devon | Publications & Catalogs | 2012 Hallmark Dams | 2012 Membership Directory | 2013 Sire Summary
Midland Bull Test
April 3-5, 2013
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South Devon History
South Devons originate from the counties of Devon and Cornwall in Southwest England where they have been a distinct breed since the 16th Century. They are the largest of the British breeds and are not related to Devon cattle which are also from England. Over 100 years of selection for performance has given the South Devon its outstanding qualities of beef and maternal characteristics.
The first South Devons were brought to the United States in 1969 and in 1974. The North American South Devon Association was formed for the purpose of development, registration and promotion of the South Devon breed of cattle in this country.
The breed is exceptionally adaptable to varying climatic conditions and is presently well established on five continents. Wherever they have been introduced, South Devons have been well accepted and exhibited strong performance for production and profitability. Red and black South Devons are available around the world.
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South Devons have earned themselves the reputation of “The Maternal Beef Breed.” They possess the fertility, ease of calving and milking ability that make “maternal magic.”
The proof of superiority of F-1 South Devon females is documented by one of the most comprehensive studies of South Devon in the U.S. at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), Clay Center, Nebraska. Economically important traits from conception to consumption were studied. Both Hereford and Angus dams were bred artificially to several sires of each of the breeds used in the study. (Cycle 1, Phase 2). The evidence was conclusive when comparing the beef breeds of South Devon, Limousin, Simmental and Charolais, only South Devons weaned a calf crop over 90 percent, actually 92 percent.
Historically, South Devons have been categorized as a dual purpose breed. They have very high milk solids for a beef breed with an average butterfat content of 4.2 percent. The MARC data ranks South Devon as one of the highest English breeds for milk production.
Breeding programs worldwide use a South Devon bull to produce a crossbred female that will generate higher milk yields that increase the growth potential of the calf and ultimately increase weaning weights.
The mothering ability and longevity of the South Devon cow is excellent. Lon Larson, manager of Circle 5 Ranches, Brewster, Nebraska stated “I needed to sell 200 cows out of 1200 because of the long drought in our area. We started to sort the old cows first. I discovered they were all South Devon and South Devon cross cows at 14-15 years of age.” He added: “They were the highest indexing cows in the herd the same year.”
A testament to the longevity of the South Devon cow is the 16-year-old South Devon cow pictured still producing in the Bollenbach Cattle Company herd in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.
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South Devon cattle are well known for their quiet, easy to handle, docile nature. Their disposition has earned them the title of “The Gentle Solution.” South Devon is the ideal breed to use in crossbreeding programs with breeds where temperament may be a problem.
Commercial cattlemen, purebred producers and especially junior members benefit from their outstanding disposition. Their easy going temperament makes management easier and economically improves rate and efficiency of gain.
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The most obvious benefit of any F-1 cross of beef cattle is the roughly 12-14% increase in rate of gain available through hybrid vigor, with the second cross offering additional hybrid growth benefits. However, the South Devon F-1 cross offers even more. The commercial beef cow of the future will be a combination of two or more breeds strong in maternal traits, early sexual maturity, high fertility, calving ease mothering and milking ability and an easy keeper with longevity and environmental adaptability. She must calve at two years of age, not be abnormally large and will probably be bred to a bull of a third compatible breed. The South Devon is the "maternal breed" needed by the American beef industry for the superior F-1 beef cow. She will provide all of the above qualities with the increased frame to carry more pounds of beef, yet will not bring with her the calving or feed efficiency problems of some continental European breeds.
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Equally important is the efficiency of gain available with South Devon. In a University of Minnesota test, a South Devon bull gained one pound for each 5.22 pounds of 60% TDN ration consumed.
This economic trait of feed efficiency is especially important during times of high feed and interest costs.
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Rate Of Gain
South Devon cattle have performed exceptionally well against all breeds in bull tests and steer competitions.
South Devon have been an integral breed at the Midland Bull Test, Columbus, MT since the late 1970s where over 1,800 bulls are performance tested annually. Long recognized among cattlemen as the performance genetic testing grounds for the major breeds, South Devon bulls continue to excel in average daily gain, weight per day of age and overall performance. In 2004, a South Devon bull consigned by MJB South Devons, Lodge Grass, MT was the top gaining bull overall breeds, posting a 4.74 average daily gain, with a ratio of 127 and a weight per day of age of 3.71.
In 2004, Tom Williams, Chappell Feed Lot, Chappell, Nebraska fed 200 head of South Devon calves owned by Thompson Land and Cattle Company, Motley, Minnesota in his 7,000-head capacity feedlot. He stated the feed conversion was 5.26 lbs. of feed per pound of gain and was the overall top in the feedyard for that year. He also added that the Thompson calves had the least expensive cost of gain in the lot. “They are easy to feed, easy on your wallet and easy to raise,” said Vearl Thompson, owner of Thompson Land & Cattle Company.
South Devon hold top Average Daily Gain, Weight Per Day of Age and top sire groups for Rate of Gain titles at the Great Western Beef Expo, Sterling, Colorado, the Midland Bull Test and at other bull tests in Minnesota and Nebraska.
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South Devons meet current industry specifications for carcass and meat traits by providing a heavier carcass with a higher dressing percent.
The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) data show South Devon crosses averaging 61 pounds heavier with a 0.9% higher dressing percent than Hereford-Angus cross (HA-X). MARC data also shows South Devons and HA-X both graded 76% Choice. This data coupled with data from the Colorado Great Western Beef Expo and ‘field results’ show that South Devon cattle have a high genetic potential for marbling. South Devon crosses averaged 0.16 inch less 12th rib fit thickness than HA-X (0.48 vs 0.64) inch. The average yield grade of 3.3 for South Devon crosses was slightly better than the yield grade of the HA-X. South Devon crosses also averaged 1.4% greater percentage retail product (mostly boneless) trimmed to 0.3 inch of fat cover than HA-X.
Colorado carcass data showed 319 crossbred South Devon steers and heifers grading 89% Choice, 63.3% yield grades 1 and 2 and an average 64.6 % yield.
Bud Burgess, South Devon breeder from Colorado who currently markets South Devon beef stated “South Devon cattle have a unique ability to marble well (high quality grades) and yield well (consistently over 65%). Most cattle breeds can only offer one or the other of these carcass characteristics.”
Pacific Northwest Washington state rancher Lee Engelhardt fed his entire 2003 crop of 200 South Devon calves at North Platte Feeder in North Platte, Nebraska. Out of 200 head, 84% graded Choice, 74% yield grades 1 and 2. There were no #4’s and no discounts or dark cutters. Englehardt stated “The higher the percent South Devon the better the cattle get.” He has also discovered that South Devon have more longevity than any other breed ever used on his ranch.
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South Devons Make The Grade
The 1996 North American Carcass Project gave the beef industry conclusive data that South Devon cattle perform and give you more for your money.
Responding to the data collected from the NASDA Carcass Project, Dr. Michael Dikeman, Kansas State University stated “South Devon cattle tend to defy the general antagonism that exists between percent meat yield and marbling. In other words, South Devon have a higher percent meat yield than other British cattle at the same marbling and at a common slaughter weight.”
Dr. Dikeman praised the South Devon’s potential to improve the quality, saying “South Devon cattle rank among the top three beef breeds for meat quality.”
501 South Devon and/or percentage South Devon carcasses were evaluated
Feedlot death losses were 0.99%
No South Devon carcasses were condemned
No dark cutters
No USDA Yield Grade 4s or 5s
Only two carcass weight fallouts (carcasses less than 550 lbs.)
77.9% Yield Grade 1s and 2s while 67.6% graded choice or Prime
As percentage of South Devon increased, percent grading Choice & Prime increased. Percent Yield Grades 1 and 2 increased, ribeye area increased and backfat decreased.
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Tenderness Is South Devon
The average South Devon steer finishes out at 13 to 15 months of age with an average weight of 1,150 to 1,250 pounds, a 62-65% hanging carcass, with a high yield grade average.
South Devon combine marbling with the lean yield and gain traits of the Continental breeds. The MARC data shows that South Devon surpasses other English breeds in retail product yield. At a recent Great Western Beef Expo, a pen of South Devons placed first on feed efficiency (4.52 conversion), second on average daily gain (4.03 lbs./hd/day) and first on lbs. feed/carcass gain.
In study after study, South Devon have risen to the top on carcass quality. When compared with 16 other breeds at MARC, the South Devon breed had the highest meat tenderness score of all beef breeds. These earlier tenderness findings from MARC have been confirmed by recent trials at Oklahoma State University. Combining 1994 and 1998 trial results, a total of 38 South Devon carcasses have been evaluated for tenderness. According to Warner-Bratzler Shear tests, 30 of the 38 carcasses were designated VERY TENDER (79%) and 6 of the remaining 8 were designated TENDER (16%). Average shear force required on the steaks from the 38 carcasses was 7.42 lbs.
MARC data indicated that steaks from South Devon crosses have lower Warner-Bratzler shear values than all other beef or dual-purpose breeds. Also, taste panel tenderness, flavor and juiciness scores tended to be higher for steaks from South Devon. The research results and field results show that South Devon cattle have very good marbling potential and produce meat that is very tender, flavorful and juicy.