On a visit to the livestock barn at the local fair I noticed something unfamiliar to me. It was a dark colored cow with a white stripe down her back and speckled sides. Valerie Becker and Jim and Jennifer Brewer, from Mohawk, NY, were happy to talk about the American Dairy Lineback.
Lineback color patterns appear on cattle breeds all over the world. The pattern is random in some breeds like the Texas Longhorn but in breeds like English longhorn and Irish Moiled the pattern becomes an indicative of the breed.
There are two variations of the American Dairy Lineback; Gloucester and Witrick. The Gloucester has black or red body with a white stripe along the back, a star on the face, white tail, and white belly. Another distinctive marking on the Gloucester is the appearance of garters, white bands, around the legs where they attach to the body.
The other variant, the Witrick, comes in three different styles; white classic Witrick, dark-sided Witrick, and dark speckled Witrick. All Witricks are found with the breed’s trademark-like speckling on their face, body, and legs. The white classic Witrick color pattern is most common among the American Dairy Linebacks. White classic Witricks are mainly white with some colored sprinkles throughout the body. The noses are dark with dark ears and a dark outline around the eyes. Some white classic Witricks have a dark streak above the eyes that sometimes resembles eyebrows. The other two Witrick variants both have a dark solid color. The dark speckle has more speckles and equal parts of dark and white coloring. American Dairy Linebacks can be black and white or red and white. The Witrick variety is found more often than the Gloucester.
Calling them “Linebacks” refers to both the breed and their appearance. The Lineback came from Holland and Europe in the 1700-1800s. Lineback’s first appeared in America when English and the Dutch settled in the country. The Dutch were bringing cattle into New York at a time when the Witrick was plentiful, while British ships brought the Gloucester.
At first the Linebacks were a dual purpose animal; used for both milking and as meat. Over time line backs have been selected mostly for dairy because of their high protein and high fat content as well as high production.
Valerie Becker has 20 Linebacks in her 150 head herd. She chose the Linebacks based on their personality. The Linebacks are very docile. They are easy to work with. Becker said Linebacks milk the same or better than Holsteins. She added, “Linebacks are easy breeders and easy calvers. Even with a huge calf.”
Grant Becker, Valerie’s son, said, “Linebacks are nice animals, nice producers, and great with kids.”
Jim and Jennifer Brewer, from J & J Dairy, have 19 Linebacks and 71 total head of cattle in their herd. The Linebacks are very hardy. They are good grazers — heat does not bother them. Jim Brewer said, “Even when it’s 100 degrees out and the others are in the shade they’re out munching away.” He added about the Linebacks’s friendliness, “They’ll come right to your truck.”
The American Dairy Lineback is a hardy and productive breed with a long history and a bright future ahead.