Red Poll Cattle are one of many breeds that are known as Heritage Breeds. Heritage Breeds are typically breeds that are declining in number because they are not the main stream commercial cattle. Many of them have their own niche, such as grass fed beef. Many are also dual purpose animals. Their value is great, perhaps not measurable in dollar amounts, but more in their value for preserving genetic diversity.
Red Poll cattle are a cross between the Norfolk and Suffolk breeds of quality of its beef. They were small, red and white, hardy and horned breed of cattle. Suffolk cattle were a dairy breed that were Red, yellow, and brindle in color. They were a polled breed. Through genetic selection and cross breeding of the two breed, the Red Poll was developed. The traits of Red Poll cattle that make them excel are many of those of the above breeds. Perhaps obvious, but they are a smaller, red and polled breed of cattle.
According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, the breed was imported to North America in the 1800s. In 1883, the American Red Poll Association was founded. I am not certain of the numbers nor the membership, but I can state that my farm is registered herd #6500. My herd was registered earlier this year. (I have to laugh a bit to say herd, as we have three heifers that just calved within the past two months.)
The cross resulted in a nice dual purpose breed. Throughout the years, Red Poll cattle have fluctuated from a dairy focus to a beef focus several times. At one point, Red Polls were efficient and competitive dairy cows. This was very evident on farms that tracked total profits above and beyond the cost of feed only. This is likely due to their ability to convert forage into production. They are also known for longevity, often producing 10,000 pounds of milk per year into their teen years. An added benefit of this longevity is that they continue to produce calves into their later years as well.
One of the highlights of the breed are their reproductive traits. Red Poll bulls are very potent. Their traits are predictable and easily inherited. Red Poll females tend to be very fertile and are easy breeders. They are known for calving ease. Red Poll cattle produce a large amount of milk even on forage. This results in good calf growth. They are noted for good survivability of the calf. I saw one study where they were the top producing breed in terms of Rate of gain to day 200. This has to do with good rates of gain, great calving ease, and the survivability of the calf (calf vigor).
- Red Poll Cattle (The perfect breed) (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
- Red Polls prove versatile and make economic sense | Features | Farmers Guardian (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
- Red Poll Association (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)