Over 300 years ago Gervaise Markham in his book, ‘A Way to Get Wealth’, remarked about Lincolnshire Cattle, on the “pyde” cattle “their horns little and crooked, of bodies exceedingly tall, long and large, lean, strong hoved and indeed fittest to labour and draft.”
The modern Lincoln Red is a far cry from those far off days.
Today the consumer wants traceability. The Lincoln Red Cattle Society was among the first to use herd books and introduced the first independently observed Beef Recording Scheme.
Most breeds of cattle have improved over the years. Indeed many of them owe this to the pioneering work of the Lincoln Red breeders.
After the Viking invaders, credited with bringing descendants of the wild bos. urus to eastern England, little is known about the history of Lincolnshire cattle until Gervaise Markham’s book in 1695.
During the late 18th and early19th century a number of Lincolnshire breeders, most notably Thomas Turnell, brought in cherry-red coloured Durham and York Shorthorn bulls and heifers of medium size, some from the well known herds of Robert Bakewell and the Collings brothers. These animals were crossed with the local large, rugged, draught cows to improve conformation. The resulting cattle became known as the Lincolnshire Red Shorthorn.
In 1799 the breed was described by the Board of Agriculture “a breed of cattle which are unsurpassed in this country for points highly valuable and for their disposition at any age to finish rapidly.”
In 1822 the first volume of the Coates Herd Book distinguished between the two types of Shorthorn. Then in 1895 The Lincoln Red Shorthorn Association was formed and began publishing its own herd book in 1896.
The earliest record of export is in 1893 with the reference by Professor Wallace of Edinburgh University to the founding of “The Argentine Red Lincolnshire Shorthorn Herd Book” From 1904 – 1914 774 cattle were exported to 20 different countries. In more recent times Lincoln Reds have been exported to many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.
In 1926 the Lincoln Red Shorthorn was the second largest breed of pedigree cattle in England in terms of registrations – Shorthorn being the largest. Initially a dual purpose breed, selective breeding had resulted in two distinct types – beef and dairy – with the consequent division of the herd book into two sections in 1946. Although the Lincoln Red was an excellent dairy animal; cows regularly achieved respectable yields of 3,200 – 3,600kg and breeders won many prizes – the coveted Bledisoe Bowl was won by a Lincoln Red team at the 1922 London Dairy Show – the emphasis on beef became more marked. Today the modern Lincoln Red has all the essential characteristics of a beef breed, but has retained, from its dual purpose days, a high milk yield – vital for fast growing progeny.
1939 Eric Pentecost of Cropwell Butler, Nottinghamshire started work on the polling of the Lincoln Red using red and black Aberdeen Angus bulls. After 17 years of Mr Pentecost’s dedication, and success in retaining the Lincoln Red’s original qualities, the first polled Lincoln Red bull was granted a licence by the Ministry of Agriculture. The trend for polling continued and consequently in 1960 the society dropped the word ‘Shorthorn’ from its name and became the Lincoln Red Cattle Society.
The Lincoln Red Society was the first to introduce weight recording, performance figures for the cattle, in order to publish weight figures and gains in the sale catalogues.
In 1961 the Society introduced the first independently observed Beef Recording Scheme. That scheme became the basis for what is now known as the MLC/Signet Breeding Services.
With the importations of continental cattle breeds in the 1970’s and 80’s the Lincoln Red breed, along with all indigenous British breeds, suffered a loss in popularity. Unbowed, a Breed Development Programme was initiated by the Society. Lincoln Red cows were crossed with selected European breeds to improve conformation and increase lean meat content. This has been carried out extremely successfully and, as with polling, the main characteristics of the breed have been retained. This development of the modern Lincoln Red has seen a decline in the traditional polled native bred Lincoln Red to the extent that this section of the breed is now monitored by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
In 1999 The Lincoln Red participated in an MLC project assessing maternal traits in beef cattle: “Developing Effective Suckler Cow Replacement Strategies”. This project was designed to develop techniques for comparing the performance of different breeds of suckler cows and different management systems. The Society also took part in the “Lincoln Red Decision Support Programme”, a postgraduate research programme at De Montfort University. This is a computer based programme helping to keep track of the many lines of Lincoln Red genetics.