Lincoln Red cattle were developed in Lincolnshire, Britain in the early 1800s, a time rich with breed development and livestock improvement. The Lincolnshire breed of cattle was first mentioned in a book, “A way to get wealth” written by Gervaise Markham in 1695 in which he extols the quality of the breed.
In the 1700-1800s, Lincolnshire cows were crossed with bulls from Durham and York Shorthorns, and those with local draught animals to improve conformation. The resulting offspring were called Lincolnshire Red Shorthorns (later shortened to Lincoln Red in the 1960s). The British Board of Agriculture recognized the breed for their ability to finish rapidly. As they were developed from the Shorthorn, they were originally registered in the Coates Herd Book, but Lincolnshire Red Shorthorn cattle breeders started their own herd book in 1896.
Lincoln Red cattle began as a dual-purpose breed but are now selected for beef production. When continental beef breeds were imported to Britain in the 1970s-1980s, many breeds lost ground through crossbreeding programs that didn’t provide for the replacement of purebreds. A small number of uncrossed Lincoln Red cattle remain in Great Britain, where they’re known as Lincoln Red Original Population. These are also considered critically endangered by the British Rare Breed Survival Trust.
Lincoln Red cattle were imported to the United States and Canada in the 1960s and early ’70s, just prior to the breed improvement program that allowed outcrossing of Lincoln Red cattle in Britain. Although The Livestock Conservancy’s criteria for inclusion on the Conservation Priority List states that breeds must have a long history in the US, Lincoln Reds are a good example of the handful of breeds that are included because they are at risk globally, and the US population contributes significantly to global conservation.
Lincoln Red cattle are deep cherry-red in color that is thought to reduce the chance of sunburn and cancer. They have soft, pink skin. Bulls weigh around 2,000 lbs. and cows around 1,500 lbs. They have a short face and large muzzle. They are a fast-growing breed.
The breed was horned until the 1960s until introduction of the polled gene. This makes it easier as breeders no longer have to spend the time and money to dehorn their cattle, and while most Lincoln Reds are now polled, it is important to keep those that are horned as well. Like Dexter cattle, the polled trait was introduced through a grade-up program and isn’t original to the breed. Polled Lincoln Red bulls are often used as terminal sires.
They are a hardy breed, have a docile temperament, and mature early, grow rapidly and have good carcass quality. They are good mothers and calve quickly. Lincoln Reds are well-suited to colder climates and represent a viable option for small-scale beef production and beginning farmers. The US population is important to preserving this useful breed.
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