Red Devons and red shirts
Monday, 24 May 2010
By Crispin Caldicott
Rolling up to view a paddock of prize Bulls wearing a red shirt is not the brightest thing any journalist has done.
The response from Clive Baker, owner of Falls Farm, Te Wairere stud was characteristic.
| The Red Devons in New Zealand are in demand all over the world. |
“Townie!” he exclaimed.
Clive has been breeding Red Devon Cattle for the last five years and recently moved to a small farm near Wellsford.
He is passionate about the breed, and has a great belief in their desirability for both beef and dairy herds. “It’s been confirmed that putting a Red Devon over a Jersey cow produces not only that hybrid vigour, but also the two top butter fat producers there are.
“The first cross heifers make ideal replacements in the herd for top quality butter fat.”
Clive purchased his cows from the late Dick Pegram of the Te Wai-iti stud.
One of Dick’s bulls took runner up for best beef bull at the Royal show in England recently. One of his brothers is contentedly grazing on Clive’s farm, but as Clive points out the Red Devons in New Zealand are in demand all over the world.
“They are much closer to the original English definition, and have not been ‘expanded’ in the American way.
“Furthermore they are one of the very best foraging breeds – they get fat on virtually nothing, and I’ve even seen calves eating thistles.”
The Red Devon is not a huge animal, and there has been a misconception that bulls can’t reach when covering a dairy herd, especially the bigger breeds.
“What they lack in hock, they more than make up for in body length,” Clive emphasised.
“Where there is a will there is a way, and Red Devon Bulls I know are quite big enough for the job.”
The legend is that Henry VIII, he of the six wives and big tum, would eat no other beef than a Red Devon.
True or not, it says a lot about the quality of meat available. “Their body density is very good, and you’ll get a lot of meat off them. One heifer is on record as having a 72.9% yield. Most breeds will be less than 60% of bodyweight, but Devons would normally be in the 60% plus range.”
The docility of the Red Devon breed has been much publicised by breeders. Suffice it to say that not only are they good around children, but they were far too interested in food to bother with a red shirt.
| The Red Devons have a docile nature. Photos Crispin Caldicott. |
Clive’s farm is small – around 35 acres. His plan is to reduce the size of all his paddocks to around two to three acres and graze his herd on rotation.
“I had twelve calves this year, and the sale of those will cover all the overheads of the farm. For a small block holder they are ideal – they’re medium sized and therefore less damaging on the ground, and you can carry more per acre.
“They are easy to keep and have a docile nature. They should more than pay their way.”