Durham Reds: new cow on the block gets thumbs up

DENVER, Colo. — Building on the advantages of two strong British breeds has resulted in the Durham Red.

The American Shorthorn Association, which was recognized in 2005, introduced the first 100 percent British breed composite when it allowed the registration of Shorthorns crossed with Red Angus.

“Shorthorns and Red Angus were a common commercial cow, so in the early 2000s, as committees, we discussed it and put some rules together to make it a structured group. I don’t know if any one person can take the credit,” Shorthorn breeder Toby Jordan said while tending his cattle at the National Western Stock Show held in Denver, Colo., from Jan. 9-24.

“Shorthorn and Angus are real close in terms of quality. Shorthorns have an advantage in terms of yield, so it was a good mix overall.”

His family operation, Waukaru Polled Shorthorns near Rensselaer, Indiana, is one of the farms producing the solid red cattle. Its polled Shorthorns are a deep glossy red, so the hybrids fit in well with a program that started in 1902 when Jordan’s great- grandfather registered his first Shorthorn.

Only 600 to 700 Durham Reds are registered in the United States.

The cattle must have the initials DR before the registration number to be registered through the Shorthorn association. All animals are individually identified with tattoos.

Producers must maintain birth, weaning and yearling weight records, bulls’ scrotal circumference and DNA records to receive a breed certificate of registration. Individuals must be one-quarter to seven-eighths Shorthorn with the balance composed of Red Angus. Both parents must be registered with their respective breed associations.

The expected progeny differences will be incorporated into a multi-breed analysis for the calculation of the Durham Red EPDs.

Producers can show or sell the cattle at sanctioned Shorthorn events.

The new hybrids seemed to have been accepted even by traditional Shorthorn breeders.

“The traditionalists were more open to it than you would expect, and they have become accustomed to it,” he said. “Because that cross looks like a Shorthorn, you don’t get a lot of push back.”

However, it was agreed that the Durham Red must still look like a Shorthorn. No one favoured allowing black cattle like many other breeds have done.

“They installed a rule that if they didn’t have traditional markings, they would always revert to a half blood,” he said.

In his area, commercial customers want solid coloured cattle and many want an outcross in their Black Angus herds.

“Genetically, Shorthorns are very unrelated to Red and Black Angus, so they add heterosis,” he said.

“Your cow longevity is improved. We have some commercial cows that are 14 or 16.”

Shorthorn cattle originated in the 18th century in northeastern England in the counties of Northumberland, Durham, York and Lincoln. They were raised for dairy and beef, and specialized strains were developed. The cattle are red, white or roan.

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