One of the unsung heroes of heritage livestock farming is Norris Albaugh. He has dedicated his life to bringing back an important historic cattle breed — the Native Milking Shorthorn. I had the great pleasure of meeting Norris in 2011 in my role as senior program manager for The Livestock Conservancy. Norris’ passion to produce high-quality Shorthorns that are robust and, most importantly, profitable, helped change my outlook on cattle breeding.

Establishing Breed Standards

The Milking Shorthorn breed was first developed in the 1700s in the county of Durham in northeastern England. These cattle are fairly large, with bulls weighing 2,000 pounds or more, and cows averaging from 1,200 to 1,500 pounds. These fast-growing animals are dual-purpose, for either milk or beef. They can be solid white, or red, or any combination of the two. Because of their easygoing temperament, Milking Shorthorns make excellent oxen, even for beginners.

Despite its popularity in the past, the genetically true Milking Shorthornmany purebreds to be crossed with other breeds for “improvement.” This created the modern Beef Shorthorn that’s popular among Midwestern ranchers. These animals are no longer the true genetic Milking Shorthorn and are more specialized for beef production, rather than being dual-purpose.

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