THE oldest pedigree cattle breed in the world celebrates its bicentenary this year, and the Beef Shorthorn Society is marking the occasion with a series of events and activities that celebrate the sustainability, the success and the future of this popular native breed.

The formal recording of Shorthorns began with the publication of the Coates’ Herd Book in 1822, the first pedigree herd book for cattle in the world, which recorded 710 bulls and 850 cows. After the Shorthorn Society of Great Britain and Ireland was established in 1875 it acquired the rights to publish the herd book, and has continued to do so. Beef breeders started their own section of the herd book in 1958, and in 2017 formed their own breed society as a result of very rapid growth in demand for Beef Shorthorn cattle. The two Shorthorn societies retain close links and are working together on bicentenary celebrations.

Clive Brown, Operations Manager of the Beef Shorthorn Society, said: “It is a real honour to be helping to shape the future direction of such an iconic and important breed. The Beef Shorthorn of today is ideally positioned for a farming industry that’s increasingly looking towards sustainability and resource efficient production. It has greatly benefitted from 200 years of careful, intentional breeding which has resulted in a form that capitalises on traditional, native traits - such as hardiness and efficient foraging - while delivering excellent yields and exceptionally well flavoured beef.

“Our bicentenary is an opportunity to celebrate where we have come from while looking ahead with confidence to a successful future; understanding that the phenomenal growth in demand for the Beef Shorthorn is a consequence of the hard work and dedication of our members, and their passion for the breed’s ongoing development.”

The focus of the bicentennial celebrations is the National Show at the Great Yorkshire Show and the 2022 World Shorthorn Conference, hosted in partnership with The UK Shorthorn Society (Dairy). This 14-day conference tour begins in London on July 7 and includes trips to Cardiff, Pembrokeshire, Cheshire, Durham and Dumfries & Galloway, plus a visit to the Great Yorkshire Show. There are additional Scottish post-tour farm visits to beef herds in Perthshire and Inverness.

Supporting the next generation of Shorthorn farmers is an important component of the 200 year anniversary, and an online auction was recently held to raise funds to deliver a Shorthorn World Youth Programme. This new initiative invites young people aged between 18-24 years to apply for the opportunity to work on a Beef Shorthorn or Dairy farm for two weeks. Young delegates will compete and learn alongside others at the Great Yorkshire Show before joining the remainder of the World Shorthorn Conference Tour.

The society has also recently launched a new National Herd Award, which is set to run for an initial three-year period with the silverware and cash prizes provided by sponsor Pedigree Sales Online Livestock Auctions. The award has been developed to recognise the 200 years of breeding excellence across the UK and Ireland by Shorthorn farmers, which has led to the Beef Shorthorn becoming rightly known as ‘the great improver’.

Breed society president, Charles Horton said: “We can all learn from the past and the story of those 200 years is fascinating, but this is a time to look at today’s opportunities for Beef Shorthorn; to assess where the breed is now and, more importantly, where it is going in the future. The events we have planned for this year, and the World Shorthorn Conference Tour in particular, will bring Shorthorn farmers bang up to date with the progress that’s being made in the breed’s homeland.

“By working together with our board, our executive team, our members and our commercial partners, we will continue to support the sustainability, adaptability, resilience and the productivity of our breed to secure a bright and successful future for Beef Shorthorn over the next 200 years.”

The Hallsford herd of Beef Shorthorns was established in 1999 when the family moved to Cumbria, while the Sandwick Herd was formed in September 2002 after looking for a native breed with excellent mothering abilities and great temperament whilst still retaining commercial attributes.