For potential first time Heritage Shorthorn buyers there are many factors to consider. To help facilitate the process Heritage Shorthorn Society is presenting some of the more important characteristics that Heritage Shorthorn buyers should consider.
1. If purchasing a Registered Heritage Shorthorn it is important that the buyer verify that the animal has registration papers issued by the American Milking Shorthorn Society and has the N (Native) designation on its pedigree. Without meeting both of these conditions the purchaser may be buying a purebred Shorthorn, but not an officially recognized Registered Heritage “Native” Shorthorn. (There is no heritage/native designation available under the American Shorthorn Association registration system.)
2. Dairy type versus Beef type versus Dual Purpose There definitely are Heritage Shorthorn bloodlines that fit into each of these categories. Most would be Dual Purpose but there are Heritage Shorthorn breeders who selectively breed primarily dairy or beef types.
3. Polled versus Horned Polled Heritage Shorthorns can be either heterozygous or homozygous polled. Extremely accurate genetic tests are now available to identify homozygous polled Heritage Shorthorns.
4. Genetic (Inherited) Defects Tibial Hemimelia (TH), Pulmonary Hypoplasia with Anasarca (PHA), Digital Subluxation (DS), and Myostatin-Double Muscling (MYO) are currently the most important genetic defects to ask about. Tests are available for each of these. Their incidence in Heritage Shorthorns is minimal but they certainly can have a devastating affect in a herd if a carrier bull is used.
5. Color Patterns Shorthorns can be solid red, white, roan, or red & white. There is quite a variation in roan patterns from light to dark red. It is important to note that breeding a roan to a roan may not result in a roan. The calf could be any of the four color patterns.
*For those new to Shorthorns, no purebred Shorthorns have any black in their coat patterns—all black, black/white combinations, and all blue roans are cross bred animals, despite some being called Shorthorns.
6. Temperament Calm Heritage Shorthorns are easier to work with which is paramount if an owner plans to milk them or use them in a family setting. Generally Heritage Shorthorns have tranquil dispositions and are known for being quite docile.
7. Health Status This is an extremely important part of any purchasing decision. The vaccination status for common cattle diseases should be discussed (an ounce of prevention….). Given the communicable nature of diseases such as Foot Rot, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV), and Johne’s Disease it’s important to ask sellers about their herd’s status with regard to these problems.
8. Conformation Sound feet and legs with a body type that has the capacity to facilitate good feed efficiency are important in foundation cows and bulls. Grass fed Heritage Shorthorns need to have the rumen volume to convert grass/hay into meat and/or milk.
9. Reproductive Status Such things as pelvic diameter, prior calving ease, and pregnancy confirmation in bred heifers/cows are just a few examples of important reproductive factors that should be asked about. Bulls should have a reproductive (and health) exam prior to purchase.
The above list is a starting point for any potential Heritage Shorthorn buyer. Each established Shorthorn breeder has tailored their breeding program to fit a certain style, body type, and purpose, so a buyer should ask the right questions to help locate the healthiest individual Heritage Shorthorns which fit what they are looking for.