Shorthorn cattle originated in the northeastern coast of England in the 17th century, and are the oldest recorded cattle breed in the world. They were brought to America by the early settlers and today are found in almost every country and in large numbers in North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Two separate breeds have developed; the beef shorthorn and the dairy shorthorn.
Shorthorns can be red, red and white, roan or sometimes white. They can be either horned or polled. They are quick to mature and tend to have a quiet placid temperament, which makes them easy to handle. Shorthorns are fast maturing and long-lived and the cows calve easily and have good mothering ability. Fertility is high, which means they are a productive breed, and they are resistant to eye cancer.
Dairy shorthorns have a moderate frame with a low-set body that is a rectangular boxy shape. They have become a rare breed, unlike the beef breed, and are an ideal household dairy cow. They produce more than 1,820 gallons during a typical lactation, with a butterfat content of 3.6 percent. Mature cows weigh around 1,200 to 1,400 pounds, which makes them a frame score of 5 to 7. Frame score is a numerical way of describing the skeletal size of cattle where smaller numbers represent smaller frames. Most cattle are between 3 and 8 frame score.
Beef shorthorn cows are beefier and heavier than their dairy counterparts, and weigh in at 1,450 to 1,800 pounds, making them a frame size of 6 or 7 on the US grading system. They are considered to be a large-framed cow rather than the moderate size of the dairy shorthorn. They are often crossed with other breeds to produce fast-maturing vealers, and can do well on most feed types.
Both beef and dairy shorthorn bulls weigh between 1,800 and 2,200 ,which makes them a large frame size of between 6 or 7. Beef from either breed is tender, as genetic testing has found that shorthorns have one of the highest percentages of the tenderness gene. The meat is close-grained and tasty, and marbles well when they are grain-fed.
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