The Seneca County Fair drew about two dozen American Milking Devon cattle as the site of an official show of the heritage breed during the recent fair in Waterloo, NY. Andrew Van Ord, secretary of the American Milking Devon Cattle Association, brought a few head to show from his 48-acre farm, Ox Hill Devons, in Russell, PA. He prefers this breed because he likes the multi-use aspect of Devons.
“We use them for draft animals as a hobby around the farm,” he said. “Mostly, I show because I like to promote the breed. We sell some for beef, breeding stock and a little veal, and occasionally milk for our own consumption.”
Small yet sturdy, hardworking yet docile, the breed was developed as an all-around animal for homesteaders who needs versatility: milk, meat and work, not a particular specialty.
His family had always raised Devons and he likes carrying on that tradition. “They’re a critically rare breed, so they need some help,” Van Ord said.
The Van Ords have been raising Devons for 11 years on their own since they purchased his family’s farm. “It’s mostly fun and for breed promotion than for anything else. It’s important for my daughter to have a large animal project. That’s the main reason behind it,” he said.
Van Ord felt enthusiastic when he heard that Dale and Grace Freier, Seneca County Fair board members and fellow Devon enthusiasts, had petitioned the American Milking Devon Cattle Association to hold the Northeast region’s show in New York.
“I like their versatility,” Van Ord said of his favorite breed. “They’re very hardy and don’t have any special requirements. I also think they’re distinctive. Most have great personalities. I would say I came into the breed from a draft animal direction. They’re an iconic breed in this country for use as oxen.”
Van Ord and his daughter, Lily, 12, brought a cow and two heifers. “I think she did pretty good,” he said. “It was a good experience. She showed at our Warren County, Pennsylvania, show.”
Lily is in her third year in 4-H. She also showed at a Mid-Atlantic American Milking Devon Regional Show at the Virginia State Fair a couple of years ago.
“It’s about preparation,” Van Ord said. “During the summer, she worked with her heifer and cow virtually every day. Most days before I go to work, I get them out. While I’m at work, she practices desensitizing them, trimming them with the clippers as needed and she trains them.
“Anyone interested in a homestead cow should know they’re out there and a viable consideration,” Van Ord said. “We want to promote the breed to give it a space in the modern world. It’s pretty hard for them to compete in the commercial world as everything else has moved on to specialize. As a homestead animal, they excel in grass-fed beef. They are a good option.”
The Van Ords plan to exhibit their Devons at a few local competitions before the end of the summer.
“We had a great time at the show,” Van Ord said of the Seneca County show. “It was our first time at that fair and the way it looks now, we’ll probably go back in the future. It’s important for people to remember these heritage breeds like American Milking Devon and put some effort behind them to promote them.”
by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant