From Big to Small to Big to Small: Part 2 of A Pictorial History of Cattle Changes Over the Years

In memory of Dr. Harlan Ritchie, August 3, 1935 - April 27, 2016. A Distinguished Professor for 47 years at Michigan State University, Dr

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8 thoughts on “From Big to Small to Big to Small: Part 2 of A Pictorial History of Cattle Changes Over the Years

  1. Great article. Dr. Ritchie did a guest lecture in AH 111 when I was a freshman in 1972 and talked about breeding “puppy dog” sized Angus and Herefords in the 1940s and 50s, but that the beef industry had made a U turn and was correcting itself. Glad they did. Dr. Ritchie was a very good beef man, great animal scientist, and not a bad Euchre player!

  2. As a kid, I remember my father cussing those “little flat-tailed fuzzballs”. He refused to buy a “little pony-sized bull” and took lots of ribbing about his “big, plain, raw-boned bulls”, but he had some of the heavier calves at the local livestock auctions and his response was that “we sell ’em by the pound.” He also was a firm believer in cross-breeding.
    In college in the late 70’s, I argued with my judging team coach, a noted and respected judge, that they were getting the animals too tall and late maturing, with too little depth and body. He disagreed, and also said that if I wanted to win, that’s how I had to place them. About 7-8 years ago, I saw him at a show and commented that the animals were getting too small-framed again. He said I could be right.
    When we go to either extreme, we lose functionality and the ability of our animals to match most commercial ranch environments. And while we have reduced frame size of the cattle, we have increased the mature weight of the cows in our herds.

  3. Another question: what is the origin of the Dexter breed since they are notorious carriers of the dwarfism gene?

  4. Interesting! So the mini cattle trend started in the mid 20th century? So much for them being the traditional sized cattled. I have been led to believe that the so called Low Line Angus were the originals. This is not so from what I gather reading this article?

    1. The Lowline angus were part of a study on frame size. The Australians took many years and generations of breeding to try and determine the most efficient beef. Lowlines have done well but still not the most efficient in lbs per head.

  5. Kathy – Great articles. I would love to listen to a discussion between Kit Pharo, Jim Gerrish and a couple of purebred breeders from NCBA or a land grant on this subject.

    I think that my answer is “it depends.” I like smaller cattle on lush pasture and see a trend in America for smaller cuts of beef. I believe that larger cattle should do better on rangelands with forage that is more nutrient dense but farther apart. Just stepping cactus and other thorny vegetation. Hmmmm

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