Gentle Genetics For the 21st Century

South Devon

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South Devon History

The first South Devons were brought to Canada over 30 years ago and oliginate from the counties of Devon and Cornwall in south west England where they have been a distinct breed since the 16th Century. They are the largest of the British Breeds and are not related to Devon cattle which are also from England. Over 30 years of selection for performance in Canada has produced two distinct types of South Devon, the Full Blood which has been upgraded in England and the Purebred which has been upgraded in Canada both have excellent beef and maternal characteristics.

The breed is exceptionally adaptable as they forage well in extreme cold, heat and mountain regions and is presently well established on five continents. Wherever they have been introduced, South Devons have been well accepted and exhibited strong performance for production and profitability. Red and black South Devon are available around the World.

Maternal Traits

South Devon's possess the fertility, ease of calving and milking ability that have earned them a reputation as "the maternal beefbreed". At birth calves are longer in the body and smoother in the shoulders than many other breeds. The cow has one of the largest pelvic area's in the beef breeds. These traits tend to minimize calving problems.

Cows will consistently produce calves over a long life often extending upwards of fifteen years. The breed's outstanding maternal characteristics lead to early recycling and conception after calving, allowing them to raise a calf per year on a regular basis.

South Devon was originally a dual purpose cow producing the famous "Devonshire Cream". A three month old calf requires 30 pounds of milk per day for rapid efficient growth. The average South Devon cow exceeds this amount by 50% with the highest milk solids of any beef breed and an average butterfat content of 4.3%. Equally important, the South Devon cross cow carries these qualities with her to benefit her commercial calf.

Feed Efficiency

Equally important is the efficiency of gain available with South Devon. This economic trait of feed efficiency is especially important when maintaining your cow herd over winter during times of high feed and interest costs.

In the results of the 1999 Steer-A- Year program run by Old's College they returned $60.25 per head which far exceeded the closest competitor. They were the clear winner by nearly a $30.00 per head margin. This was a significant accomplishment in a year when calf prices were very high. They also placed first for the lowest total cost/pound of gain and tied for first in top yield class category (AI).

South Devon's were in second place for average daily gain and tied for second in the category of lowest feed cost per pound. They also tied for second in carcass marbling (AA). They were in the top four for feed efficiency as 8.44 pounds of feed was required for a pound of gain. They also produced a carcass yielding nearly 61 %.


South Devon's cross well with other breeds. With their rapid growth rate, beef qualities, mothering ability and milk production, the cross females make top rate mother cows. This cross will add milk, length, size, improved carcass grade and rapid live weight gains to most commercial cow herds.

South Devon cows attain an average mature weight of 1400 to 1600 pounds and average mature bull weights are 2200 to 2600 pounds.


South Devon cattle are exceptionally docile. Cattlemen can expect. to see an immediate improvement in their herd temperament on the first cross. This docility extends to the bulls who are easier to handle in corral and pasture conditions and fight less than other breeds. Mature bulls and cows have been tie broke in a matter of hours making it easier to handle them.

Carcass Quality

Feedlots also appreciate this docility as South Devon calves settle in on feed quickly and start gaining sooner. The breed ranks among the top three breeds for marbling and have a higher percent meat yield than other British cattle. This means more money in the feedlot operator's pocket.

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This World Wide Web page is maintained by: Ralph McGregor

2003 Sampson McGregor Stock Farm, Iron River, Alberta, Canada

Revised: Wednesday February 14, 2007